Russia, China block US attempt to condemn North Korean sanctions violations

Russia, China block US attempt to condemn North Korean sanctions violations

By Luke Vargas   
Published
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley brief the press on the status of North Korean diplomacy at the U.N. headquarters in New York. July 20, 2018. UN Photo/Manuel Elias
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley brief the press on the status of North Korean diplomacy at the U.N. headquarters in New York. July 20, 2018. UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Despite providing photographic evidence of North Korea evading sanctions on oil imports, China and Russia want more time to validate U.S. claims of sanctions evasion.

UNITED NATIONS – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that all nations have a duty to maintain pressure on North Korea in order to advance denuclearizatioFn efforts. That statement came a day after Russia and China blocked a U.S. attempt to condemn North Korea for breaching U.N. sanctions on oil imports.

“When sanctions are not enforced, prospects for the successful denuclearization of North Korea are diminished,” Pompeo told reporters at the U.N. after meetings with members of the 15-member U.N. Security Council. “Right now, North Korea is illegally smuggling petroleum products into the country at a level that far exceeds the quotas established the United Nations.”

That conclusion was reached after the U.S. observed at least 89 instances of oil being transferred between boats on the high seas between January and May.

But when the U.S. introduced a resolution to formally condemn the sanctions violations and stop all future oil sales, China and Russia blocked the motion hours before it would have gone into effect.

“What are they telling us? Are they telling us they want to continue supplying this oil?” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley asked. “They claim they need more information. We don’t need any more information. The Sanctions Committee has what it needs.”

Despite being thwarted in dialing up pressure on North Korea, Pompeo said it remains up to Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un to decide whether to pursue his pledge made last month to denuclearize his country.

“We need to see Chairman Kim do what he promised the world he would do. It’s not very fancy, but it’s the truth.”

Until he does that, Haley said the U.S. won’t be the first to blink, and that international sanctions will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

“We can’t do one thing until we see North Korea respond to their promise to denuclearize. We need to see some sort of action.”

But maintaining what the Trump administration has called “maximum pressure” on North Korea looks to be increasingly difficult. After emerging from meetings with Pompeo and Haley on Friday, Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador reportedly let it slip that Russia wants the U.S. to drop unilateral sanctions on North Korea and pare back U.N. sanctions on the Kim regime.

If true, a little over one month after Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, the international unity so often cited as a necessary prerequisite to guiding Kim toward an abandonment of his nuclear program appears to be diminishing with frightening speed.

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