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Russia veto ends UN monitoring of North Korea sanctions after arms transfer probe


Russia faced a mounting backlash Friday after using its veto power to effectively end official UN monitoring of sanctions on North Korea amid a probe into alleged arms transfers between Moscow and Pyongyang.

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Russia’s UN Security Council veto on Thursday blocked the renewal of the panel of experts tasked with investigating violations of sanctions tied to North Korea’s banned nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

South Korea’s foreign ministry on Friday slammed the move as an “irresponsible decision”.

Seoul has accused Pyongyang of sending thousands of containers of weapons to Moscow for use in Ukraine, and Russia’s move was “almost comparable to destroying a CCTV to avoid being caught red-handed”, said Hwang Joon-kook, South Korea’s UN ambassador.

The Kremlin defended its veto Friday, saying UN sanctions on North Korea were hindering dialogue and peace on the Korean peninsula and had not aided regional security.

“Over the years, international restrictive measures have not helped to improve the security situation in the region,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters at a daily briefing that Moscow’s position was “more in line with our interests”.

The European Union had earlier called Moscow’s veto “an effort to conceal unlawful arms transfers between DPRK and Russia, in the context of the latter’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine”, referring to the North by its official name.

The United States, meanwhile, called the vote a “self-interested effort to bury the panel’s reporting on its own collusion” with North Korea.

“Russia’s actions today have cynically undermined international peace and security, all to advance the corrupt bargain that Moscow has struck with the DPRK,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said after the Thursday vote.

The panel’s mandate expires at the end of April.

North Korea has been under mounting sanctions since 2006, put in place by the UN Security Council in response to its nuclear program.

Since 2019, Russia and China have tried to persuade the Security Council to ease the sanctions, which have no expiration date.

The council has long been divided on the issue.

‘Political solution’

China abstained rather than joining Russia in the veto. All other members had voted in favor of renewing the expert panel.

Beijing said Friday it opposed “blindly supporting sanctions” on North Korea.

“The current situation in the (Korean) Peninsula remains tense, and blindly imposing sanctions cannot solve the issue,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said.

“A political solution is the only way,” he said, when asked why Beijing abstained during the vote, adding that a “showdown at the UN Security Council is not conducive to its authority.”

China and Russia have in recent years ramped up economic cooperation and diplomatic contacts, and their strategic partnership has only grown closer since the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s UN envoy Vasily Nebenzia had earlier said that without an annual review to assess and potentially modify the sanctions, the panel was unjustified.

“The panel has continued to focus on trivial matters that are not commensurate with the problems facing the peninsula,” Nebenzia said.

Continued tests

Additional Security Council sanctions were levelled on Pyongyang in 2016 and 2017, but the North’s development of its nuclear and weapons programmes has continued unabated.

Last week, Pyongyang tested a solid-fuel engine for a “new-type intermediate-range hypersonic missile,” state media reported.

Recent cruise missile launches have prompted speculation that North Korea is testing those weapons before shipping them to Moscow for use in Ukraine.

In its latest report, issued at the beginning of March, the sanctions panel reported that North Korea “continued to flout” sanctions, including by launching ballistic missiles and breaching oil import limits.

It added that it is investigating reports of arms shipments from Pyongyang to Russia for use in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba took to social media Thursday to call the veto “a guilty plea”.


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