United Nations drops sanctions on military communications between North and South Korea
Action came at South Korea’s request, after Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to re-establish phone lines as one step ‘to maintain peace and stability’
The United Nations committee on North Korea sanctions has approved a request by South Korea to allow military communication lines to be re-established between North and South Korea, a Security Council diplomat confirmed on Monday.
As part of that process, the committee will permit the use of materials and equipment like fibre optic cables, buses, trucks, petrol, engine oil and transmission fluid in the restoration of the lines.
North Korea has been subject to numerous rounds of sanctions stemming from its past nuclear and ballistic missile tests, so there are tight restrictions on imports from and exports to the country. Any sanction exemptions must be cleared by the 15-member committee and approved unanimously.
As an example, in December, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution capping exports of refined petroleum products to North Korea at 500,000 barrels a year, down from 2 million barrels, following Pyongyang’s test-firing the previous month of a new type of long-range missile.
Last week, South Korea’s UN ambassador, Cho Tae-yul, requested restored communications in a letter, which included a list of more than 50 items, addressed to the head of the sanctions committee, the Netherlands’ ambassador, Karel van Oosterom.
The letter describes the restoration of the lines as a “follow-up measure” to the historic Panmunjom Declaration that was signed between the top leaders of both countries at a meeting held at the border on April 27.
In it, Seoul’s president, Moon Jae-in, and Pyongyang’s leader, Kim Jong-un, agreed, among other things, to “take various military measures to ensure active mutual cooperation, exchanges, visits and contacts and convene military talks”, according to the letter.
During military talks on June 14, the two sides agreed to “completely restore military communication lines” which “will serve to maintain peace and stability and reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula and beyond”, the letter said.
The committee is also considering a request made by the United States, which last week accused Pyongyang of breaching a UN sanctions cap on refined petroleum through illicit ship-to-ship transfers and urged UN member states to refrain from exporting such products to North Korea.
Washington made the case in a document it submitted to the committee at a time when it seeks to negotiate denuclearisation of North Korea.
The committee has until Thursday to deliberate on the matter.