By Riyaz ul Khaliq
In a major relief to North Korea, the UN Security Council has allowed humanitarian agencies to work in the country, media reports said Wednesday.
The Security Council has granted exemptions from sanctions to UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Eugene Bell Foundation, Christian Friends of Korea, and the Canadian NGO First Steps Health Society to work in the country facing sanctions for its nuclear program since 2006.
"The exemptions allow shipments of items to North Korea for the groups' humanitarian programs, including those to combat tuberculosis and malaria in the impoverished country," Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
The partial lifting of sanctions comes after a historic 2018 summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during which Kim promised denuclearization. A similar second meeting is in the offing.
A UN committee mandated to look after such issues has granted permission to a list of items for UNICEF's shipment to North Korea that include computers and televisions for hospital use, as well as nine ambulances worth $205,740.
The exemptions are valid for six months.
"The total items are worth some $520,000," the news report said.
North Korea had ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1985 but it withdrew in 2003, citing U.S. "aggression" to justify its decision.
It was in October 2006 that UN condemned the first nuclear test done by North Korea and imposed sanctions on it which were later enhanced in 2016.
The UN committee has also allowed the transportation of microphones and loudspeakers to the country.
The aid organizations which have worked in North Korea in past have complained that "multilayered sanctions are affecting their operations through disruption of banking channels, a breakdown in supply chains and delays in the transportation of goods".