By undercutting international sanctions, the US says Russia is decreasing the chances of persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.
UNITED NATIONS – The U.S. accused Russia of systematically violating sanctions against North Korea on Monday, telling fellow members of the U.N. Security Council that such actions reduce the likelihood of pressuring Kim Jong Un to surrender his nuclear weapons.
“Every time the Security Council overlooks sanctions violations – every time we allow the Russia to bury evidence of violations – we remove incentives of Pyongyang to end its nuclear program,” U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said.
Haley cited several instances of Russia’s alleged sanctions violations, including ship-to-ship oil and coal transfers off the North Korean coast, which she said have allowed the Kim regime to far surpass its yearly allowable oil imports.
“We think they have obtained four times the annual quota in the first eight months of this year.”
So why would Russia, which has voted 11 times to impose sanctions on North Korea, violate those very sanctions?
Haley said the answer is money – or economic development. Given that Russia’s Far East has, as Haley put it, “few economic opportunities,” increased trade with North Korea looms as a tempting possibility.
Russia wants new markets for its Siberian coal, she said, and envisions a railway to take its exports through North Korea and toward major ports in South Korea where the coal could find international buyers.
Haley seemed to acknowledge the merits of such a plan, but said Russia needs to wait to realize that vision.
“The problem is, it isn’t time yet to relieve the pressure on North Korea no matter how lucrative it is for Russia. As we have all agreed to, that time comes with denuclearization, not before.”
For his part, Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vasily Nebenzia condemned the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy against North Korea, saying the rest of the world should take steps to build confidence with the Kim regime, instead of further isolating it.
“Sanctions cannot replace diplomacy,” he added.