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UN North Korea Sanctions Oversight: Russia Vetoes Panel Amid Violations, China Abstains

UN North Korea Sanctions Oversight:

Russia used its veto power at the United Nations Security Council on Thursday (March 28) to end oversight of UN sanctions on North Korea after monitoring reported violations by Moscow.

U.S. envoy Robert Wood said: “Today’s vote will only make the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) more brazen in its actions as it endangers global security through its efforts to develop long-range ballistic missiles and evade sanctions.”

While the monitors’ work will cease, United Nations sanctions against North Korea remain in effect, and the Security Council’s sanctions committee will continue to monitor their implementation.

Several Security Council members said Russia wanted to disband the panel because its latest report in February banned North Korean transfers of military equipment and ammunition to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine. Moscow denies the accusations.

Joonkook Hwang, South Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, said: “At this moment, Russia seems more interested in embracing or encouraging the DPRK to provide ammunition and ballistics for its war in Ukraine at the expense of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the normal functioning of the Security Council.”

Japan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Yamazaki Kazuyuki, said Russia’s veto was “irresponsible and shameful,” especially since it was used to defend North Korea’s illegal weapons programs.

“It is no exaggeration to say that we stand at a critical historical juncture in ensuring the future non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” said Ambassador Kazuyuki Yamazaki. “No one but proliferators benefits from weakening the global non-proliferation regime.”

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Since 2006, the Security Council has adopted several sanctions resolutions aimed at limiting North Korea’s access to funds and materials for its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile weapons programs. The Security Council established the panel of experts in 2009, and since then they have documented implementation and alleged violations of Council resolutions.

But Pyongyang continues to advance its weapons program despite tough sanctions. Just last week, North Korea conducted three ballistic missile tests, and last November it launched a military satellite into orbit.

“In these circumstances, who can seriously doubt the need for an independent panel of experts that would allow us to document violations of Security Council resolutions?” French Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere asked.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said sanctions did not achieve the goal of normalizing the situation on the Korean peninsula. Nebenzia added that the monitors had become a “weapon” of Western countries and focused on “trivial matters” that had nothing to do with issues on the Korean peninsula. He said the sanctions regime needed to be updated.

“In this context, Russia calls on the Security Council to adopt a decision to conduct an open and honest review of the Security Council’s sanctions against DPRK and to change the restrictions to an annual basis,” Nebenzia said.

He suggested that if the Security Council reviewed sanctions annually, it might incentivize Pyongyang to engage in dialogue.

Russia will have to explain its veto to the UN General Assembly within the next 10 days.

China abstained from the vote

“By abstaining from the vote, China once again made clear to us its position on containing North Korea’s proliferation,” U.S. Ambassador Wood said.

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Before the meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield issued a statement together with ambassadors from Security Council members from Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, South Korea, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, expressing support for supervisors. She pointed out that North Korea has launched more than 100 ballistic missiles since 2022 and its state-sponsored cyber activities pose a threat to the international community.

“In the face of these repeated attempts to undermine international peace and security, the work of this panel is more important now than ever,” Thomas-Greenfield said on behalf of the 10 council members.

Switzerland’s ambassador to the United Nations, Pascale Baeriswyl, who heads the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee, told reporters after the vote that she hoped a solution could still be found regarding the monitors, adding that “not all doors are closed.”

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