Russia blocks renewal of North Korea sanctions monitors

By Thomson Reuters Mar 28, 2024 | 9:31 AM

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -Russia vetoed on Thursday the annual renewal of a panel of experts monitoring enforcement of longstanding United Nations sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

The move comes amid U.S.-led accusations that North Korea has transferred weapons to Russia, which Moscow has used in its war in Ukraine. Both Moscow and Pyongyang have denied the accusations, but vowed last year to deepen military relations.

“This is almost comparable to destroying a CCTV to avoid being caught red-handed,” said South Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Joonkook Hwang of Russia’s veto.

China abstained from the vote on Thursday, while the remaining 13 council members voted in favor.

“Moscow has undermined the prospect of the peaceful, diplomatic resolution of one of the world’s most dangerous nuclear proliferation issues,” deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Robert Wood told the council.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia questioned the experts’ work, telling the Security Council before the vote: “Its work is increasingly being reduced to playing into the hands of Western approaches, reprinting biased information and analyzing newspaper headlines and poor quality photos.”

Formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions for its ballistic missile and nuclear programs since 2006 and those measures have been strengthened over the years.

The panel of independent experts has monitored those U.N. sanctions for the past 15 years, reporting twice a year to the Security Council and recommending action for improved implementation of the measures.

The mandate for the current panel of experts will expire on April 30, 2024. The panel’s most recent report was made public earlier this month and said it was investigating dozens of suspected cyberattacks by North Korea that raked in $3 billion to help it further develop its nuclear weapons program.

“The panel, through its work to expose sanctions non-compliance, was an inconvenience for Russia,” said Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward. “But let me be clear to Russia – the sanctions regime remains in place and the UK remains committed to holding DPRK to account for its compliance.”

For the past several years the U.N. Security Council has been divided over how to deal with Pyongyang. Russia and China, veto powers along with the U.S., Britain and France, have said more sanctions will not help and want such measures to be eased.

China and Russia say joint military drills by the United States and South Korea provoke Pyongyang, while Washington accuses Beijing and Moscow of emboldening North Korea by shielding it from more sanctions.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Alex Richardson)