Russia pushes UN to focus on N Korea sanctions’ toll

N Korea urges ‘telling blow’ to forces imposing sanctions: KCNA

12 April, 2019 12:00 AM printer

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council on Wednesday extended the work of a key panel that investigates North Korean sanctions-busting following weeks of negotiations over Russia’s demands for a stronger focus on the humanitarian impact of the tough measures, reports AFP.  

The council unanimously approved a US-drafted resolution renewing for a year the mandate of the panel of experts which reports to the UN sanctions committee on North Korea.

The approval had been held up by Russia which had requested that the panel be tasked with providing reports on the impact of sanctions on North Korea’s humanitarian crisis, according to documents seen by AFP.

Russia wants the sanctions committee to grant more exemptions on humanitarian grounds, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told AFP.

“The indiscriminate application of the resolution prevents many things from happening in North Korea. UN organisations have difficulty working on the ground and we want exemptions,” he said.

The United States rejected Russia’s request to add a new task to the panel, but an agreement was reached to ask UN aid officials to brief the sanctions committee on the humanitarian situation every six months. In a letter seen by AFP, the United States proposed that the sanctions committee “explore additional steps” to streamline requests for exemptions and help aid groups cut through UN administrative red tape.

Western diplomats accuse Russia of using humanitarian aid as a pretext to weaken the tough sanctions regime imposed on North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

A summit meeting in Vietnam between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended in failure in late February after Pyongyang demanded an easing of sanctions.

The United States maintains that Pyongyang’s policies are responsible for the dire shortages of food and medicine in North Korea—not sanctions.

Some 10.5 million North Koreans, or 41 percent of the population, are in need of food aid, according to UN figures.

So far this year, the sanctions committee has granted 18 exemptions to aid organizations working in North Korea, some of which had been under review for as long as a year, with the United States delaying approval.

Meanwhile, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has struck a defiant note over his failed summit with US President Donald Trump in Hanoi and insisted Pyongyang would overcome the effect of sanctions, state media reported Thursday, reports AFP.

The remarks were Kim’s first official comment on the North’s position since talks on denuclearisation with Washington broke down in Vietnam in February, in part over Pyongyang’s demands for immediate sanctions relief. Trump is set to host South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the White House later on Thursday, seeking to rekindle dialogue with the North.

Kim told top officials of the ruling Workers’ Party on Wednesday to push ahead with “self-reliance” to undermine the sanctions, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

He said developing the socialist economy would “deal a telling blow to the hostile forces who go with bloodshot eyes miscalculating that sanctions can bring the DPRK to its knees,” the report said, using the acronym for the North’s official name.

Kim made no mention of nuclear weapons, nor did he criticise his US counterpart, according to KCNA.

Trump and Kim held their first landmark summit in Singapore last June, where the pair signed a vaguely-worded agreement on the “denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

But the failure to reach agreement at their second summit in Hanoi—which broke up without even a joint statement—has raised questions over the future of the wider process.

Both sides expressed willingness to talk further and Trump has repeatedly said since that he maintains good relations with his North Korean counterpart, boasting he had blocked new sanctions planned for Pyongyang.

North Korea has also been careful not to criticise Trump personally, while saying last month that sanctions against it were an “action against humanity to destroy modern civilisation and turn the society back in a mediaeval dark age”.