New Delhi: The United States and Russia clashed Monday over enforcing U.N. sanctions against North Korea, with the U.S. ambassador accusing Moscow of “cheating” and Russia’s envoy accusing Washington of “political ill-intent.”
The acrimonious meeting of the Security Council was called by U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who accused Russia of pressuring independent U.N. experts to alter a report on the implementation of sanctions against North Korea that she said contained “evidence of multiple Russian sanctions violations.”
The sharp disagreement marked a rare break in what has been a united response by the U.N.’s most powerful body to North Korea’s escalating nuclear and ballistic missile programs. It has unanimously imposed increasingly tough sanctions on Pyongyang that have cut off all North Korean exports, 90 per cent of its trade, and disbanded its pool of workers send abroad to earn hard currency.
North Korea?s ruling family has long dreamed of a state-of-the-art rail system linking its major cities with each other and the wider world. Kim Jong Un wants to make it a reality.
Haley said Russia’s violations are “systematic,” including ship-to-ship transfers of banned items, mainly oil but increasingly coal and other goods. She identified the Russian ship Patriot filmed transferring refined petroleum to a North Korean vessel and accused Moscow of trying to cover up violations “whether they’re committed by Russia or citizens of other states.”
Haley said the United States prevented publication of the “tainted” report that removed allegations against the Russians and demanded the release of the initial version.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia countered that the work of the panel of experts “became increasingly politicized, then became ultimately the hostages to the vision of Washington” and didn’t take into account Russia’s views. “Unsurprisingly, therefore, we insisted on having our position reflected in the document,” he said, and a compromise on the report was reached among all 15 council members including the “American delegation” and U.S. “experts.”
But Nebenzia said Haley put a hold on the report the following day, so it is the United States that is blocking release of the report and “the ball now is in your court.”
The U.S. Mission said later in a statement: “Certainly no U.S. expert agreed – at any point in the process – to Russia’s tainted version of the report.” Behind the U.S.-Russia squabble over implementing sanctions are the broader issues of how to achieve denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and when sanctions should be lifted.
The United States has kept up sanctions pressure on the North despite the historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June that dialled down nuclear tensions between the adversaries. That first-ever meeting of leaders from the two countries has been followed by a diplomatic impasse over how to achieve the agreed-upon goal of denuclearization.
The U.S. has said sanctions won’t be lifted until that goal is met. South Korean officials who recently met with Kim said he still has faith in Trump’s commitment to ending their nations’ hostile relations but is frustrated by questions about his willingness to denuclearize and wants his “goodwill measures” to be met in kind.