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Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
China and Russia have blocked a U.S. request made at the UN Security Council (UNSC) to stop oil transfers to North Korea, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN – Nikki Haley – confirmed on Friday.
The U.S. made the request following a submission of evidence to the 1718 committee that claimed North Korea conducted up to 89 prohibited ship-to-ship (STS) transfers involving oil in the first five months of 2018.
Haley, speaking alongside U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, reiterated that the U.S. had proposed the complete ban on exporting petroleum products to North Korea as the STS transfers would have exceeded the annual cap for such products established under UNSC Resolution 2397.
“China and Russia blocked it. Now for China and Russia to block it, what are they telling us? Are they telling us that they want to continue supplying this oil?” she said.
“They claim they need more information. We don’t need any more information, the sanctions committee has what it needs, we all know it is going forward, we put pressure today on China and Russia to abide … and to help us to continue with denuclearization,” she added.
Haley was speaking at a press briefing in New York following meetings between herself, Pompeo, UNSC members and officials from Japan and South Korea – including Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.
Pompeo, who spoke to the press prior to Haley’s comments, said he was also there to update the UNSC on diplomatic progress between the U.S. and the DPRK.
Sanctions enforcement, however, was at the forefront of the discussions and despite China and Russia blocking the U.S. request for the halting of oil transfers to the DPRK, Pompeo said the council was in agreement on other key elements.
“The UN Security Council is united, on the need for final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea as agreed to by Chairman Kim. Members of the UN Security Council and by extension all UN member states have unanimously agreed to fully enforce sanctions on North Korea and we expect them to continue to honor those commitments,” Pompeo said.
“When sanctions are not enforced the prospects for the successful denuclearization of North Korea is diminished,” he added.
Pompeo specifically referenced the 89 suspected STS transfers, added that they continue to occur to this day and called on all member states to “step up” their actions in preventing such transfers taking place.
He also mentioned other sanctions breaches, including smuggling of coal by sea and overland borders and guest workers overseas.
The comments regarding overland border smuggling implicated China and Russia in potential sanctions breaching activity or at the very least a lack of adequate enforcement.
Pompeo also said that North Korean cyber theft was a mechanism the regime uses to generate revenue and needed to be countered.
Both Haley and Pompeo reiterated the U.S. stance that North Korean must denuclearize before sanctions are lifted. When asked to explain what actions would have to be taken to see sanctions relaxation, Pompeo said that was up to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“It’s really pretty straightforward right? And It’s not my description of what needs to take place, Chairman Kim made a promise. Chairman Kim told, not only President Trump, but President Moon that he was prepared to denuclearize,” Pompeo said.
“The scope and scale of that is agreed to. The North Koreans understand what that means. There is no mistake about what the scope of denuclearization looks like so what do we need to see? We need to see Chairman Kim do what he promised the world he would do,” he said.