United States Pursues U.N.S.C. Panel Monitoring North Korean Sanctions

North Korean Sanction

A senior United States official said on Friday, April 12th, that the United States has not “given up” on continuing a mandate by a United Nations panel keeping an eye on sanctions placed on North Korea. The same official said Russia would have a “change of attitude” after vetoing a renewal.

During an online press briefing, the senior official said that regardless of the renewal, Washington will find any way possible to “fill the void.”

“No, we have not given up on extending the mandate of the panel of experts. We want to extend that mandate of the panel,” the same official said.

Russian Veto 

Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution last month. The resolution is routine of sorts, as the mandate is a “rollover” of sorts.  Without the resolution, the panel will be dissolved on April 30th.

“The (panel’s) work is critical, but Russia — being helped by China, does not want to see this work continue,” the official added.

The veto comes during a week of negotiations, during which Russia has demanded a “sunset clause” for the aforementioned sanctions against North Korea. South Korea and the United States have deemed this unacceptable due to increased missile and nuclear weapons threats from North Korea.

A sunset clause will only leave the sanctions in effect for a certain length of time unless another agreement is reached to keep them in place until the next meeting.

The panel started in 2009 and has assisted the sanctioning process in North Korea, pointing out cases of sanction violations from reports from other states and open-source intelligence. The panel publishes two reports annually: an interim report and a final report.

The Russian Ambassador to the U.N., Vasily Nebenzya, said at the U.N. General Assembly meeting on Thursday, April 11th, that Russia will submit a draft resolution within the “very near future” on a one-year addition to the U.N. panel’s decree. Nebenzya reinstated the need for “updating the perimeters” on North Korea’s sanctions.

The panel has revealed several sanction violations, including North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs and activities such as importing luxury goods and ship-to-ship transfers, among other things outlined in the yearly reports.

Similarly, China abstained, with the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian saying, “The current situation in the (Korean) Peninsula remains tense, and blindly imposing sanctions cannot solve the issue,” and adding, “A political solution is the only way.”

Foreign Comments 

John Kirby, White House National Security Communications Advisor, criticized Russia’s decision, stating: “The reckless action today further undermines critical sanctions that the United States and the UN Security Council have imposed in response to North Korea’s multiple nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches.”

South Korean Ambassador to the U.N. Hwang Joon-kook issued a similarly critical statement, saying: “Today, we witnessed yet another setback in the authority of this august body, as well as in the international non-proliferation regime. A permanent member of the Security Council and depository of the non-proliferation treaty completely abandoned its responsibility.”

The aforementioned U.S. official said Moscow’s goal is to put in a sunset clause to stop the panel’s biannually published reports. He added, “One of the reasons why they are unhappy is because previous reporting has spoken to Russia’s support for sanctions evasion on the part of the DPRK.”

Analysis 

The decision to veto carries several implications and effects. 

The main one is impeding the United Nations Security Council’s ability to monitor and record sanction violations by no longer allowing the council to exist as of April 30th. Russia’s decision comes amid the heightened tensions between Western nations and Russia amid the invasion of Ukraine in 2022. 

The lack of a sanction monitoring panel makes any future action against North Korea more difficult for the West if it is dissolved. Sanctions may not be as enforced, monitored, or tracked, and with enough time, this could allow North Korean weapons programs to grow further. 

The relationship between Russia and North Korea has grown, especially after North Korea sent Russia munitions to replenish Russian stocks, such as artillery shells, in exchange for raw materials and food. 

This could also be an attempt to make the U.N. and the West look incompetent or possibly embarrass them. Russia was the only nation to veto, it would appear that the progress of monitoring is held up by their vote, making the panel seem entirely reliant on Russia’s vote. This may also give Russia the possibility of negotiating the terms of the sanctions or the process to monitor the sanctions. 

Evan Berridge
Evan Berridge
Analyst reporting on mostly Indo-Pacific affairs, covering a wide variety of topics. Started in January 2024

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