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Russia blocking UN report finding North Korea is violating UN sanctions

Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Nikolsky Alexei/TASS/Zuma Press/TNS)
September 02, 2018

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Russia is blocking publication of a United Nations report finding North Korea in violation of UN sanctions limiting its imports of fuel, including through some illegal transfers of oil at sea involving Russian ships, UN diplomats said.

“The report is on hold because we disagree on certain elements of the report and on the conduct of the business itself,” Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya told reporters late on August 30 after a closed UN Security Council meeting on the matter.

Nebenzya didn’t disclose Russia’s concerns, but UN diplomats said a key objection that Russia raised at the meeting was the report’s mention of Russian ships being involved in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of fuel, which have helped push North Korea over a UN-imposed cap on its oil imports for the year.

Nebenzya said Russia also asked for an investigation into leaks of the council’s reports on North Korea to the media. AP, AFP, and other news organizations obtained information about the latest report and publicized its findings earlier this month.

In light of the finding that North Korea already is over its legal cap on fuel imports, the United States last month called on the council to end all further fuel exports to the country this year in a move that was blocked by China and Russia.

Pressure On Pyongyang

The United States is in the midst of efforts to negotiate an agreement with North Korea to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons, and has been calling on all nations to keep applying pressure on Pyongyang by adhering to the stiff UN sanctions imposed last year, to ensure the success of the negotiations.

British UN Ambassador Karen Pierce, the current Security Council president, said there would be informal consultations on August 31 to determine what Russia’s objections are in hopes of finalizing and releasing the report.

“I need to stress that this panel of experts report is independent,” she said. “It’s an interesting question as to whether you should be objecting to an independent report. But, as I say, the council hopes we can resolve this.”

Pierce said the council has been “very strong” on enforcing sanctions against North Korea, “and getting this report out and implemented is the next stage in enforcing the sanctions.”

Besides finding violations of fuel import limits imposed by the council, the 62-page report also found violations of bans on North Korean exports of coal, iron, seafood, and other products that generate millions of dollars in revenue for Kim Jong Un’s government, media reports said.

Pyongyang “has not stopped its nuclear and missile programs and continued to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illicit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products, as well as through transfers of coal at sea during 2018,” AFP quoted the report as saying.