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Friday, April 19, 2024

Russia’s veto a move to dismantle sanctions regime on North, experts say

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The UN Security Council votes on a resolution to extend the mandate of the Security Council's panel of experts on North Korea for another year on March 28, 2024. [SCREEN CAPTURE]
The UN Security Council votes on a resolution to extend the mandate of the Security Council’s panel of experts on North Korea for another year on March 28, 2024. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

Russia’s veto of the extension to a UN Security Council panel monitoring sanctions on North Korea was a move to permanently dismantle sanctions against Pyongyang, according to top think tank researchers.

With Russia’s backing, North Korea has paved the way to slip off the sanctions radar of the United States and the international community.

South Korea’s ambassador to the UN, Hwang Joon-kook, even likened the failure to extend the panel to “destroying a CCTV to avoid being caught red-handed.”

“Russia’s veto is arguably the third step in a systematic effort to undermine the UN sanctions regime on North Korea,” wrote Victor Cha and Ellen Kim, Korea chairs of the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), in a report published Friday.

Russia, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, vetoed a resolution on Thursday to extend the panel of experts on sanctions against North Korea. This move will result in the panel’s mandate expiring on April 30.

Of the 15 members of the Security Council, 13 members voted in favor of the resolution, with China abstaining, before Russia vetoed the motion.

The panel has been extended annually since it launched in 2009 and has served as a key body that oversees sanctions on Pyongyang, publishing two reports annually on sanctions violations.

“Moscow now has stopped complying with sanctions mandated by these UN Security Council resolutions and actively blocked new resolutions in response to North Korean ballistic missile tests,” wrote Cha and Kim. “Most importantly, it appears to be embarking on new steps to permanently dismantle this regime by ending the mandate of the panel of experts with the veto as well as calling for a ‘sunset clause’ for the existing sanctions regime.”

The researchers pointed out that since the September summit last year between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Moscow-Pyongyang relations have expanded in all areas, including the military, diplomatic, economic, cultural and political domains.

“From Putin’s perspective, there is little reason not to support Pyongyang at the UN Security Council to continue Russia and North Korea’s mutually beneficial cooperation and gain a decisive advantage in the war when U.S. military aid to Ukraine is stalled in Congress,” wrote the experts.

They also argued for an alternative to the current sanctions regime, saying that without an expert panel, UN member states have no third-party entity that monitors compliance and closes loopholes in the current sanctions regime.

“It falls on key member states like the United States, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and other like-minded partners to coordinate intelligence, counter-proliferation efforts, and relevant legislation to enforce sanctions policy,” said Cha and Kim. “Without Russian or Chinese compliance, this is a tall order.”

Active policy coordination among the G7 countries — the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, France, Germany, Canada and Italy — plus critical nations such as Australia, South Korea and Spain could create an “imperfect but still effective substitute,” they said

The New York Times also opined the same day that the failure to extend the panel of experts is further evidence of the rapid deterioration of nuclear nonproliferation efforts over the past two years.

Calling the failure to extend the panel “a remarkable shift,” Robert Einhorn, a U.S. State Department official during the Barack Obama administration and currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, said that the unity between the U.S., Russia and China in dealing with proliferation challenges, especially regarding North Korea and Iran, has “fractured with the re-emergence of great power competition.”

Russia, in particular, is in desperate need of North Korean weapons to gain the upper hand in the war in Ukraine, which has been raging for more than two years. This has led some analysts to believe that Russia broke the framework of sanctions that the international community spent decades building to ensure that it is not hindered from further arms deals with North Korea.

The panel’s regular report, released on March 20, included specific details of arms deals between North Korea and Russia that violate Security Council resolutions.

Dismantling the panel of experts on sanctions against North Korea “cuts new territory in relieving pressure on the country,” the New York Times explained.

BY LIM JEONG-WON [lim.jeongwon@joongang.co.kr]