Russia, China veto UN move to tighten sanctions on N. Korea

United Nations, May 26 (EFE).- Russia and China on Thursday in the United Nations Security Council vetoed a resolution proposed by the United States to tighten international sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s latest missile test.

The text received the support of 13 of the 15 members of the Security Council but could not move forward because Moscow and Beijing, as permanent members of the Council, have veto power in the body and can block any measure with which they do not agree.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China – all hold veto power there and any one of them can veto any resolution they please.

The US initiative was aimed at strengthening the punishment being levied against the North Korean government, which so far this year has undertaken 17 missile tests, the most recent one earlier this week, thus challenging Security Council resolutions that prohibit such testing.

The US announced two months ago that it would seek to tighten the sanctions on Pyongyang and since then Washington has tried unsuccessfully to convince China and Russia to do the same arguing that the UN must respond clearly to North Korean provocations.

“The world faces a clear and present danger from the DPRK (North Korea),” US envoy to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Council, adding that “Council restraint and silence has not eliminated or even reduced the threat. If anything, (the) DPRK has been emboldened.”

She went on to say that North Korea has carried out six ballistic missile launches so far in 2022 and is “actively preparing to conduct a nuclear test.”

The US diplomat said before the vote that Pyongyang interprets the silence of the Security Council on the sanctions matter as a “green light” to act with impunity and raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

However, both the Chinese and Russian delegations insisted once again that sanctions are not an appropriate response and blamed the US for the current situation.

Russia and China have been saying for months that the sanctions must be lightened in recognition of gestures of rapprochement North Korea made over the past few years, during which it held negotiations with the US when it was headed by President Donald Trump between 2017 and 2021.

North Korea shelved missile testing for a time but it has resumed the tests given the lack of progress in the dialogue with the US, where no concrete results have been achieved and talks are currently frozen.

Russia and China blame the US for this logjam, saying that Washington made no concessions to Pyongyang and did not reciprocate on the conciliatory moves made by the regime of Kim Jong-un.

China’s ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun, emphasized on Thursday that imposing more sanctions would not only fail to resolve the problem but also would complicate even more the chances for making progress and could harm the North Korean population at a difficult time due to the Covid-19 outbreak in that country.

Russia’s envoy to the international body, Vasily Nebenzia, said that the US government’s “hard line” against Pyongyang “has completely destroyed the positive progress” made in earlier years.

“Strengthening the pressure with sanctions on Pyongyang is not only useless but also is extremely dangerous from a humanitarian point of view,” he said.

Although they have always maintained different stances on North Korea, the Security Council powers for years had managed to agree on responding to Kim’s nuclear and missile program and had avoided exercising vetoes on one another’s resolutions.

After imposing initial sanctions in 2006 after North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, the Security Council progressively tightened sanctions up until 2017, when it approved the most recent sanctions package, which includes strong limitations on access to petroleum products and bans on exports from various sectors.

The resolution proposed by the US on Thursday sought to add new restrictions to pressure the North Korean government and, according to Washington, at the same time facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to the North Korean population.

Although the other Security Council members – aside from Russia and China – backed the US proposal, several member states tried until the last moment to postpone the vote to try and achieve some kind of compromise and avoid such a clear division within the Council, diplomatic sources said.

EFE mvs/fjo/eat/bp

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