Just the Facts

Five Facts on North Korean Efforts to Skirt U.N. Sanctions

By Emma Petasis
September 18, 2018 | Blog

This past weekend the United States called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss reports detailing how North Korea has been able to get around strict U.N. sanctions with the help of countries such as China and Russia.  Here are five facts on North Korean efforts to skirt U.N. sanctions:

North Korea has faced numerous sanctions from the Security Council since the country withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003

North Korea ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a landmark international treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, in 1985.  However, the country withdrew from the agreement in 2003, citing U.S. aggression.  Since then, the country has faced nine rounds of sanctions, all passed unanimously by the Security Council, designed to curtail the country’s nuclear weapons development, limit its trade, and bring the reclusive nation back to the negotiating table.  Since 2016, the U.N. has adopted five resolutions that have placed restrictive caps on oil imports, as well as exports of metal, agricultural products, and labor.

A new United Nations report details how North Korea has been able to skirt sanctions with significant help from China and Russia

The report was prepared by a U.N. panel tasked with monitoring compliance with U.N. sanctions around the world. Investigators claim that North Korea has been caught selling arms to countries such as Syria, Yemen, and Libya.  In addition, the panel has accused Chinese companies of violating sanctions by, among other things, buying tens of millions of dollars worth of North Korean iron, steel, textiles, and food.  The U.N. has also produced evidence that shows Russian ships illegally transporting refined oil to North Korea and sheds light on 39 illegal joint business ventures between Russians and North Koreans.

On Monday, the U.S. convened an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to address evidence that Russia was cheating on sanctions

In the meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley stated that the United States has evidence of “consistent and wide-ranging Russian violations” of the U.N.-imposed sanctions on North Korea. Haley cited numerous joint business ventures between the two countries, highlighting high-stakes clandestine oil transfers, in which Russian and North Korean oil tankers would meet in the middle of the ocean to illegally transfer refined petroleum products. “Step by step, sanction by sanction, and time and time again,” Haley stated, “Russia is working across the board to undermine the sanctions regime.”

In addition to accusing Russia of violating U.N. sanctions, the U.S. is also accusing Moscow of attempting to prevent the release of the U.N. report detailing the violations

While sections of the report have been reviewed by news outlets, the full document is still considered confidential and has not been released in its entirety to the public.  The U.S. claims that it has seen the original form of the report, but when it was submitted to all members of the Security Council this past week, “the evidence of Russian violations that was detailed in the earlier report was missing. It had been removed from the open section of the report.”  Ambassador Haley went on to say, “Apparently, Russia threatened to prevent release of the report unless its demands to hide the evidence of its violations was met.”

Russia has pushed back strongly against the U.S. allegations

In response to Ambassador Haley’s allegations, Vassily Nebenzia, Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, accused the panel of working closely with Washington to hurt Russia’s image, stating, “The panel of experts has become extremely politicized for reasons beyond our control, it has been almost taken hostage by Washington, which is trying to prevent normalization of inter-Korean relations with all its might.” He went on to criticize Washington’s strategy towards North Korea, arguing “sanctions cannot replace diplomacy.”

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