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Jacob Fromer is NK News's Washington DC correspondent. He previously worked in the U.S. Senate.
The U.S. is “doing our best” to make sure American humanitarian aid can enter countries — including, perhaps, North Korea — that need help fending off the coronavirus pandemic, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview on Thursday.
Pompeo’s comments come just days after U.S. President Donald Trump said his administration would be willing to offer aid to the DPRK to help fight the pandemic, if the country needed it — but the Secretary of State also seemed to suggest that Pyongyang had not accepted Washington’s offer of help.
In response to a question about how the U.S. might help Venezuela cope with the pandemic despite a troubled geopolitical relationship, Pompeo mentioned North Korea in his answer and said the U.S. was doing what it could to help, but “some of these” countries were turning away the aid.
“In countries like Venezuela — North Korea would be in a similar situation — we’re doing our best to ensure that humanitarian assistance can make its way in,” Pompeo said in an interview with the radio host Hugh Hewitt.
“As we’ve seen before, Hugh, in some of these countries, when humanitarian assistance is offered – we have offered assistance for Iran – they’ll often reject it,” he said.
It was unclear if “some of those countries” includes the DPRK. The State Department declined to clarify.
“I think it’s indicative of these leaders who care so little about their people they execute plans that are corrupt,” Pompeo continued. “They take care of the leadership but don’t take care of their own people.”
“I hope that we can do better in each of these three places to help those people make their way through this challenge as well,” he added.
North Korea continues to deny having any infections of the highly contagious virus within its borders — a claim many experts reject — while the U.S. on Thursday passed China as the nation with the most reported COVID-19 cases.
Earlier in the week, U.S. President Donald Trump made his own public offer of assistance to the DPRK.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Trump said that if North Korea needed help, “we’ll give them help.”
“There’s nobody has what we have, especially with the new tests that are coming out,” Trump said, referring to tests that can detect a COVID-19 infection.
“North Korea, Iran, by the way, and others,” Trump continued. “We are open for helping other countries. And this is a very serious time and North Korea is going through something.”
Hours after Pompeo’s interview, the State Department also announced that it had designated $110 million dollars to help “64 of the most at-risk countries” deal with COVID-19.
It is unclear, however, if North Korea is included as one of those countries. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.