White House official says it's reviewing North Korea travel ban

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The Trump administration's special envoy for North Korea said Wednesday that Washington is reviewing easing its travel restrictions to North Korea to facilitate humanitarian shipments as part of efforts to resolve an impasse in nuclear diplomacy.

Stephen Biegun made the comments upon arrival in South Korea for talks on the nuclear negotiations, which have seen little headway since a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June, when they issued a vague vow for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing how or when it would occur.

Biegun said his discussions with South Korean officials will be about how to work together to engage with North Korea "in a manner that will help us move forward and move beyond the 70 years of hostility."

Toward that end, Biegun said he was directed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to review America's policy on humanitarian assistance provided to North Korea.

"I understand that many humanitarian aid organizations, operating in the DPRK, are concerned that strict enforcement of international sanctions has occasionally impeded the delivery of legitimate humanitarian assistance to the Korean people," Biegun said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

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North Korea celebrates 70th anniversary
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North Korea celebrates 70th anniversary
People wave plastic flowers and balloons during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers march during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers march during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers march during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers march with the portrait of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of country's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
People wave plastic flowers and flags during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers march during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers march during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Students perform during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers march during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
People perform during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
People wave plastic flowers and flags during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers march during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers march during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers salute a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers march during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers march during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers march during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers march during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
North Koreans tour on a vessel on the Yalu river outside Sinuiju, North Korea, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, on the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jacky Chen
People carry flags in front of statues of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung (L) and late leader Kim Jong Il during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Kim Jong Un waves to the crowd as he attends mass games on the occasion of�he 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Fireworks explode during the Mass Games at May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
People watch Mass Games at May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants perform at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
People watch Mass Games at May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants perform at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants perform at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants perform at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants perform at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants wait to perform at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants perform at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants perform at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants perform at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants perform at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants perform at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants form Kim Il Sung portrait and North Korean national flag during Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants hold their books after performing at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants perform at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants perform at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants perform at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Participants perform at Mass Games in May Day stadium marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and China's Li Zhanshu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), wave to people while attending a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Military officers stand near portraits of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung (L) and late leader Kim Jong Il during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
A soldier salutes as he rides a tank during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Self propelled artillery roll pass during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Soldiers ride a multiple rocket launcher during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Attendees lay a wreath during the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation, in this undated photo released on September 9, 2018 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
Attendees offer flowers during the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation, in this undated photo released on September 9, 2018 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
North Korean official Kim Yong Nam meets with Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz during the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation, in this undated photo released on September 9, 2018 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
Attendees during the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation, in this undated photo released on September 9, 2018 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
Attendees offer flowers during the 70th anniversary of North Korea's foundation, in this undated photo released on September 9, 2018 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 9, 2018: A military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the foundation of North Korea. Alexander Demianchuk/TASS (Photo by Alexander Demianchuk\TASS via Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 9, 2018: Performers take part in the Arirang Mass Games marking the 70th anniversary of the foundation of North Korea, at May Day Stadium. Alexander Demianchuk/TASS (Photo by Alexander Demianchuk\TASS via Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 9, 2018: Fireworks light up the sky over May Day Stadium during the Arirang Mass Games marking the 70th anniversary of the foundation of North Korea. Alexander Demianchuk/TASS (Photo by Alexander Demianchuk\TASS via Getty Images)
Participants perform in a 'Mass Games' artistic and gymnastic display at the May Day stadium in Pyongyang on September 9, 2018. - The biggest show on earth made a comeback as North Korea put on its its all-singing, all-dancing propaganda display, the 'Mass Games', for the first time in five years. Months in the preparation, the show featured tens of thousands of performers under the curved arches of the May Day Stadium, made up of 17,490 children simultaneously turning the coloured pages of books to create giant images rippling across one side of the stadium an analogue version, on a giant scale, of a usually digital solution to a digital demand. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP) (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Participants perform in a 'Mass Games' artistic and gymnastic display at the May Day stadium in Pyongyang on September 9, 2018. - The biggest show on earth made a comeback as North Korea put on its its all-singing, all-dancing propaganda display, the 'Mass Games', for the first time in five years. Months in the preparation, the show featured tens of thousands of performers under the curved arches of the May Day Stadium, made up of 17,490 children simultaneously turning the coloured pages of books to create giant images rippling across one side of the stadium an analogue version, on a giant scale, of a usually digital solution to a digital demand. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP) (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 9, 2018: North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the foundation of North Korea. Alexander Demianchuk/TASS (Photo by Alexander Demianchuk\TASS via Getty Images)
Participants perform in a 'Mass Games' artistic and gymnastic display at the May Day stadium in Pyongyang on September 9, 2018. - The biggest show on earth made a comeback as North Korea put on its its all-singing, all-dancing propaganda display, the 'Mass Games', for the first time in five years. Months in the preparation, the show featured tens of thousands of performers under the curved arches of the May Day Stadium, made up of 17,490 children simultaneously turning the coloured pages of books to create giant images rippling across one side of the stadium an analogue version, on a giant scale, of a usually digital solution to a digital demand. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP) (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 9, 2018: A military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the foundation of North Korea. Alexander Demianchuk/TASS (Photo by Alexander Demianchuk\TASS via Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 9, 2018: Servicemen during a military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the foundation of North Korea. Alexander Demianchuk/TASS (Photo by Alexander Demianchuk\TASS via Getty Images)
Participants march during a mass rally on Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang on September 9, 2018. - North Korea was marking the 70th anniversary of its founding.Korean People's Army (KPA) tanks take part in a military parade on Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang on September 9, 2018. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [BYLINE - ED JONES]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
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He said he'll sit down with American aid groups early in the new year to discuss how the U.S. government can "better ensure the delivery of appropriate assistance, particularly, through the course of the coming winter."

"We will also review American citizen travel to DPRK for purposes of facilitating the delivery of aid and ensuring that monitoring in line with international standards can occur," Biegun said. "I want to be clear — the United States and the United Nations will continue to closely review requests for exemptions and licenses for the delivery of assistance to the DPRK."

North Korea didn't immediately respond to Biegun's comments. Talks between Washington and Pyongyang have been stalled for months, with the two sides at an impasse over next steps following Trump's meeting with Kim in Singapore and several trips to Pyongyang by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The United States wants North Korea to provide a detailed account of nuclear and missile facilities that would be inspected and dismantled under a potential deal, while the North is insisting that sanctions be lifted first. In the meantime, several reports from private analysts have accused North Korea of continuing nuclear and missile development, citing details from commercial satellite imagery.

Biegun said the United States came to have "greater confidence about the safety and security of Americans traveling to the DPRK" after North Korea in November released an American held for an alleged illegal entrance to the country. "The government of the DPRK handled the review of the American citizen's expulsion expeditiously and with great discretion and sensitivity through diplomatic channels," he said.

The United States banned its citizens from traveling to North Korea following the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, who died days after he was released in a coma from North Korea last year following 17 months in captivity.

Warmbier's death came amid heightened animosity on the Korean Peninsula, with Trump and Kim exchanging crude insults and war threats over North Korea's series of nuclear and missile tests.

Tensions have gradually eased since early this year, when Kim abruptly reached out to the United States and South Korea with an offer to negotiate away his advancing nuclear arsenal.

Since its entrance to the talks, North Korea has unilaterally dismantled its nuclear testing site and parts of its rocket engine test facility and taken some conciliatory gestures, including the repatriation of three other American detainees ahead of the June summit.

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