United Nations

China and Russia Block U.S. Push for Stronger Sanctions Against DPRK

In response to the test-launch of the Hwasong-17 by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), a new intercontinental ballistic missile that puts the entire U.S. mainland within reach of its missiles, the U.S. urged the 15-member UN Security Council on March 25 to discuss strengthening sanctions against the DPRK in order to counter its "egregious and unprovoked escalation."

The last open meeting of the UN Security Council regarding the DPRK's nuclear and missile program was held in December of 2019. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said during the March 25 open meeting that "we also cannot stand idly by in the face of [north Korea's] repeated security resolution violations," adding that the U.S. will be introducing a resolution to "update and strengthen the sanctions regime" against Pyongyang.

The U.S. argued that additional sanctions against north Korea should automatically follow the current situation according to Security Council Resolution 2397 which was introduced in response to Pyongyang's test of the Hwasong-15 missile. Unanimously adopted in late December of 2017, the resolution limited crude oil supplies to the DPRK to 4 million barrels a year and refined petroleum supplies to the country to 500,000 barrels a year. The resolution also included a "trigger clause" that read, "if [north Korea] conducts a further nuclear test or a launch of a ballistic missile system [. . .] then the Security Council will take action to further restrict the export to [north Korea] of petroleum."

Thomas-Greenfield said that "a launch of a ballistic missile system" was "precisely what happened." "Now is the time to take that action," she added.

Cho Hyun, south Korea's ambassador to the UN, expressed the country's support of U.S. plans to introduce a new resolution. The UK as well as other countries voiced their support for additional sanctions as well.

However, China and Russia made clear that they will not be cooperating with the U.S. Stating that "no parties should take any action that would lead to greater tensions," China's ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun, said, "the U.S. must not continue to brush aside [the DPRK's] legitimate demands" and "offer an attractive proposal to pave the way for early resumed dialogue."

Similarly, Anna Evstigneeva, Russia's Deputy Ambassador to the UN, stressed that added sanctions will "expose the people of north Korea to risks of inadmissible socio-economic and humanitarian turbulence."

China and Russia have been advocating for the easing of sanctions against the DPRK ever since April 2018, when the country began engaging in dialogue with south Korea and the U.S. and even declared a moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and missiles.

"With China and Russia expressly rejecting the U.S. call for action, it became highly unlikely that additional sanctions against Pyongyang at the level of the Security Council will be implemented," the newspaper Hankyoreh published in south Korea wrote. "Observers say the two countries of China and Russia have been displaying a permissive attitude towards north Korea and its behaviour crossing the 'red line' due to the rift they've widened within the Security Council in the past five years as its permanent members."

In related news, on March 25, Special Representative of the Chinese Government on Korean Peninsula Affairs, Liu Xiaoming, met with Vice Foreign Minister of Russia, Igor Morgulov, in Moscow. The two sides exchanged views on the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Liu and Morgulov expressed concern over the current situation on the Peninsula and agreed that all parties should remain calm and exercise restraint, avoid any move that could cause further deterioration, and work together to maintain peace and stability on the Peninsula. They called on relevant parties to stick to dialogue and seek effective and balanced solutions to their respective concerns. They agreed to stay in close communication and coordination and play a constructive role for promoting political settlement of the Peninsula issue.

During his visit in Russia, Special Representative Liu Xiaoming also met with Rector of the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Alexander Yakovenko, and had an in-depth discussion on the Peninsula issue with scholars from the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 4 - April 3, 2022

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