Washington is set to ease its restrictions on humanitarian assistance to North Korea, lifting bans on travel and the delivery of supplies to the North.
And this decision, according to the Foreign Policy on Friday, was communicated to the humanitarian aid organizations by Stephen Biegun, the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea.
Biegun told these groups to re-apply for special permits to travel to the North.
He added there will be a more timely review at the U.N. sanctions committee on their applications to ship necessary supplies to the regime.
The U.S. has been routinely delaying the export of necessary medical equipment and supplies to the North, because of lack of progress on the denuclearization front.
But those, the Foreign Policy reports, left the U.S. "diplomatically isolated" at the UN and aroused protests from UN agencies.
They claimed U.S. restrictions undermined their efforts to fight diseases.
Amid the Trump administration's maximum pressure campaign against Pyeongyang, the decision to loosen restrictions on humanitarian aid to North Korea is a significant step forward.
However, watchers say it's unclear how Pyeongyang will respond.
Also, it may take some time until the U.S. government shutdown ends to stop the delays in shipping goods to the regime.
Amid the change from the U.S., Seoul and Washington are due to hold a video meeting of their bilateral working group next week.
The session is expected to deal with humanitarian issues -- including this latest decision by the U.S., as well as Seoul's plan to provide 200-thousand doses of Tamiflu antiviral medication to the North.
The meeting may also touch upon the possible North Korea-U.S. summit, the recent meeting between Kim Jong-un and Chinese President Xi Jinping, and inter-Korean projects.
Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.