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UN committee investigating North Korea closes shop after Russia's veto

The United Nations Security Council has imposed a series of sanctions on North Korea since 2006 for the regime’s nuclear weapons program.
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By John J. Metzler, April 8, 2024

In a classic under the political radar ploy, Russia has vetoed a UN committee investigating North Korean nuclear, missile, and banking sanctions violations.

The low profile but highly significant sanctions 1718 Committee regularly monitors illicit actions by the Pyongyang communists to develop, improve and implement the regime’s nuclear weapons and offensive missile programs.

The fifteen member UN Security Council set up the North Korean overview committee in 2009 through resolution #1718, thus the group’s name. But when the Council was set to renew the annual mandate in what was usually a pro-forma move, Russia used its blocking veto to stop the renewal. China abstained on the vote.

Why is this important? Because the Committee has been watching and monitoring the sanctions-busting actions of the quaintly titled Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK).

The Russian veto is hardly surprising. It mirrors what I have long called the Security Council logjam. Since at least 2011, Moscow and often Beijing have opposed Council cooperation and accord over such key international security concerns as Syria, Burma/Myanmar, Ukraine, Gaza, and Israel.

The DPRK is hardly an exception to this deep diplomatic rift.

Vetoes and the once rare Double Vetoes are now commonplace in the Council. Indeed, they are symptoms of the rift between Washington and Moscow.

But why this Report? The Security Council has imposed a series of sanctions on North Korea since 2006 for the regime’s nuclear weapons program.

The 1718 Committee details and provides specific descriptions of the ongoing shadow game of North Korean sanctions and outlines its methodology. Since 2019, Moscow and Beijing have attempted to persuade the Security Council to ease DPRK sanctions.

Following the veto the ambassadors of the United States, France, Japan, South Korea and the UK issued a statement:

“For the past 15 years, the 1718 Panel of Experts has been the gold standard for providing fact-based, independent assessments, analysis, and recommendations bearing on the implementation of the Security Council resolutions on the DPRK.”

The envoys concluded,

“We must ask ourselves: Why would any Council member break 14 years of unanimous support for this mandate? The answer is clear: Russia chose to silence the DPRK Panel of Experts’ reporting on Moscow’s own violations of Security Council resolutions.”

“Russia’s veto today jeopardizes international peace and security, ” they added.

The Committee has issued its final report, covering the period July 29, 2023 to Jan. 26, 2024; It’s an over 600-page compendium. It brings transparency into the dark shadows of North Korea's illegal missile programs and proliferation, the routes through which Pyongyang gets materials, and equally cites crypto currency schemes sustaining North Korea.

The report’s summary asserts, the DPRK “continued to flout Security Council sanctions. It further developed nuclear weapons and produced nuclear fissile materials, although its last known nuclear test took place in 2017. ... At least seven ballistic missiles were launched,” during the past year including a third launch of a Hwasong-18 three-stage ICBM in 2023.

U.S. Amb. Linda Thomas-Greenfield added, “In recent years, the DPRK has only continued its unlawful activity, including launching over 100 ballistic missiles since 2022, all in violation of existing Security Council resolutions. These ballistic missile launches are destabilizing to the region and undermine the global non-proliferation regime.”

South Korea’s Amb. Hwang Joon-Kook added significantly, “Russia seems to be more interested in embracing or encouraging the DPRK for its provision of munitions and ballistic missiles for the conduct of its war in Ukraine.”

Honor their memory: The ‘shot heard round the world’

Naturally the report also mentions conventional weapons and details Moscow's transgressions and the transfers from North Korea to Russia last autumn when in September 300 containers of weapons were shipped from the North Korean port of Nanjin to Russia. The report says the Russian merchant vessel Angara and four other ships transported the weapons to Russia via the Black Sea; The arms including rockets and artillery shells arrived in October. Given the increasingly closer scientific, military and political cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang, there’s probably good reason why Russia wants to stay “off the radar” on what has become a more formalized weapons and technology transfer with the isolated DPRK regime.

Furthermore, DPRK leader Kim Jong-Un ventured to Vladivostok, Russia last year for a meeting with Vladimir Putin.

The Russian president plans to visit Pyongyang in the coming months for follow-up consultations with the North Koreans. Given the tense situation in East Asia, Putin may be pandering to Pyongyang both for needed munitions and to play a political spoiler role in the region through an axis of connivance.

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014). [See pre-2011 Archives]
unnk by Manuel Elías is licensed under Public Domain United Nations

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