NEW YORK -- The U.S. is open to offering humanitarian assistance to North Korea, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Thursday, signaling Washington's willingness to revive dialogue with Pyongyang.
"We're open to considering additional ways to facilitate humanitarian assistance, going forward as quickly as possible," Thomas-Greenfield told reporters in a telephone interview.
At the same time, the ambassador made clear that current sanctions against the rogue state will stay in place.
"It is... important to remember that sanctions did not create the humanitarian crisis," said Thomas-Greenfield.
The ambassador welcomed last week's announcement that the two Koreas reopened communication channels as a "very positive step."
"Diplomacy and dialogue are essential to achieving complete denuclearization," said Thomas-Greenfield.
While she said she supported the move toward improved inter-Korean relations, she reiterated that the U.S. has a vital interest in maintaining a policy of deterrence against the North.
That includes "defending against its provocations or use of force, limiting the reach of its most dangerous weapons program, and above all, keeping the American people and our allies safe," Thomas-Greenfield said.
The ambassador indicated that the restart of communications and humanitarian concerns in North Korea will likely not lead to the lifting of sanctions.
"Our sanctions program does not target humanitarian-related trade assistance," she said. "Rather, we proactively exclude this type of activity from our sanctions program."
Thomas-Greenfield, who assumed her current position in February, has a diplomatic career spanning 35 years. Her resume includes posts in Jamaica, Nigeria, Switzerland and Pakistan. She served under former President Barack Obama as the assistant secretary for African affairs at the State Department.
Regarding Taiwan, Thomas-Greenfield called the island "a leading democracy and a critical economic and security partner in the region."
"Our commitment to Taiwan is a rock-solid commitment, and we believe that it contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and with the region, and we're committed to deepening our unofficial ties with Taiwan," she said.
She revealed that she met with the Taiwan ambassador during a recent visit to Haiti to attend the funeral of Jovenel Moise, the country's assassinated president. However, Thomas-Greenfield stressed that U.S. policy continues to be guided by the One China policy, showing a mindfulness toward Beijing.
Concerning Japan-U.S. relations, Thomas-Greenfield said Tokyo's leadership is essential in countering the mounting economic and security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. Cooperation will be key in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, she added.
Thomas-Greenfield will begin a four-day trip to Japan on Friday, where she plans to attend Sunday's closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics. She will also be the first U.S. ambassador to the U.N. to meet with the Olympic's refugee team.
"I have spent a significant portion of my career working on humanitarian and refugee issues," said Thomas-Greenfield, adding that the refugee team is "making all of us so proud."