The U.N. Security Council on Thursday discussed humanitarian aid to North Korea, with the United States stressing the need to carefully vet organizations to prevent assistance from falling into the wrong hands.
"Our goal is to make sure that we don't do anything if it's going to be compromised and not go to the people like we want," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told reporters before the closed-door council meeting.
"Right now we are doing vetting. We are looking at the technical aspects to make sure that this is not something that could be rerouted in another way and so we are going to take our time to do that."
The 15-member Security Council's sanctions on North Korea do not ban humanitarian aid to the impoverished state. But aid organizations complain that necessary supplies cannot be delivered as the screening by the council's sanctions committee is time-consuming.
A council source said assistance planned by some agencies such as the U.N. International Children's Emergency Fund has been waiting for the committee's vetting to end.
Russia on Wednesday called for the meeting after senior diplomats from Russia, China and North Korea agreed at talks in Moscow in October on the need to ease the sanctions in parallel with steps Pyongyang takes toward denuclearization.
The United States, along with Britain and France, have argued for keeping the sanctions until North Korea completes the process of ridding itself of nuclear weapons.
The U.S. envoy said Moscow wants to lift banking restrictions that are in place to prevent funds from being illicitly diverted to its nuclear program. "We know exactly why they're trying to do it and we're not going to let it happen," she added.
Russian Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov and other diplomats, who sat in on the meeting, declined to speak to reporters after the session ended.
Meanwhile, Haley said Pyongyang had been responsible for postponing a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Yong Chol, that had been scheduled for Thursday in New York.
"North Korea said they needed to postpone it for whatever reason," she told reporters. "Secretary Pompeo was ready to come. We continue to stand ready to talk but I don't think that there was some major issue."
"What we're looking at is that they postponed it because they were not ready and Secretary Pompeo and the administration stand ready to talk."