Russian diplomat recommends easing of UN sanctions against North Korea as US seeks action
Ambassador says Russia is ready to help modernise North Korea’s energy system if sanctions are lifted and if Pyongyang can find funding for the upgrades
The UN Security Council should think about easing sanctions on North Korea, Russia’s envoy to the country said on Wednesday, as the US pushes for a halt to refined petroleum exports to Pyongyang.
“The positive change on the Korean peninsula is now obvious,” said the ambassador, Alexander Matsegora, according to the RIA news agency, adding that Russia was ready to help modernise North Korea's energy system if sanctions were lifted and if Pyongyang can find funding for the modernisation.
The UN Security Council has unanimously toughened sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, banning exports including coal, iron, lead, textiles and seafood, and capping imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products.
China tried late last month to get the Security Council to issue a statement praising the June 12 Singapore meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and expressing its “willingness to adjust the measures on the DPRK in light of the DPRK’s compliance with the resolutions”.
North Korea’s official name is Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
But the United States blocked the statement on June 28 given “ongoing and very sensitive talks between the United States and the DPRK at this time”, diplomats said. The same day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, about the importance of sanctions enforcement.
Pompeo is expected to informally brief Security Council envoys along with South Korea and Japan on Friday. Diplomats say they expect Pompeo to stress the need to maintain pressure on North Korea.
Last Thursday, the US accused North Korea of breaching a UN sanctions cap on refined petroleum by making illicit transfers between ships at sea and demanded an immediate end to all sales of the fuel.
The US submitted the complaint to the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee, which is expected to decide by Thursday whether it will tell all UN member states to halt all transfers of refined petroleum to Pyongyang.
Such decisions are made by consensus, and some diplomats said they expected China or Russia to delay or block the move.
When asked on June 13 about whether sanctions should be loosened, Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “We should be thinking about steps in that direction because inevitably there is progress on the track that should be reciprocal, that should be a two-way street.
“The other side should see encouragement to go forward.”