Nobel winners urge ease of North Korea sanctions

May 7, 2016 4:20 pm

A subway worker stands at the end of escalators as passengers leave the subway station visited by foreign reporters on a North Korean government-organized tour in central Pyongyang, , May 7, 2016. (Reuters)

A group of Nobel laureates called Saturday for the sanctions on North to be eased as the country faces difficulties in addressing its medical needs.
The three intellectuals, who were speaking to the media in Beijing, China, after a trip to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, said they have seen a significant squeeze in the quality of medical care and research in North Korea as a result of embargoes on the flow of goods into the country.
The group said in its statement that the pressure on the North Korean government is making people sicker, and that medical items such as penicillin cannot be turned into a nuclear bomb. They said imposing restrictions that hampers the access of people to such items is not the right way to go.
North Korea has been hit with a series of harsh sanctions since it reportedly tested new nuclear weapons in January and later launched a satellite into space in February. The United States and some other Western governments deny the sanctions have targeted North Korea’s medical sector. However, other reports suggest restrictions introduced by South Korea have stopped some medicines from reaching its northern neighbor.
“Many of the things the doctors would like, the professors would like, they just can’t have them because of the embargo,” said Sir Richard J. Roberts from Britain, awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize in Medicine and one the three laureates.

Sir Richard J. Roberts from Britain, awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize in Medicine, speaks during a press conference at a hotel in Beijing, China, following a trip to North Korea, May 7, 2016.

The visit to Pyongyang by the trio of Nobel Prize winners came concurrent with North Korea’s seventh Workers’ Party congress, a first in nearly four decades.
The group visited a children’s hospital, science facilities and a farm, among other sites in Pyongyang. They said some of the facilities were clean and modern, in contrast to what has been said about the impoverished nation.

Foreign reporters are briefed by the staff of the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital during a visit organized by the North Korean government in the capital, Pyongyang, May 7, 2016. (Reuters)

The call for easing of sanctions came one day after North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un opened the party congress, hailing the recent nuclear and missile tests as unprecedented, triggering more concerns that Pyongyang may defy international condemnations and pursue more sophisticated weapons.
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