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Russia, China efforts won't halt new NK sanctions monitoring: US envoy

Thomas-Greenfield expresses concerns over potential military cooperation between NK, Iran

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : April 17, 2024 - 15:55

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Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, holds a news conference at the American Diplomacy House in Seoul on Wednesday, marking the conclusion of her four-day trip to South Korea. (Yonhap) Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, holds a news conference at the American Diplomacy House in Seoul on Wednesday, marking the conclusion of her four-day trip to South Korea. (Yonhap)

The United States and its allied countries will ultimately develop an alternative mechanism to replace the soon-to-be-dissolved UN panel of experts tasked with monitoring sanctions on North Korea, said the US ambassador to the United Nations on Wednesday in response to Russia's recent exercise of veto rights on the matter at the UN Security Council.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield highlighted that the initiative will proceed independently, regardless of the cooperation and agreement of China and Russia, both of which are veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council.

"I will note here that the veto of the panel of experts does not veto the sanctions regime. That regime stays in place," she told reporters during a 15-minute news conference at the American Diplomacy House in Seoul, following her first trip to South Korea, from Sunday to Wednesday.

"The point here is that we cannot allow the work that the panel of experts was doing to lapse. We have to continue to keep eyes on and reporting on the illegal activities of the DPRK and efforts to break the sanctions that have been put in place," she said, referring to North Korea by its official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Thomas-Greenfield emphasized that a crucial topic of discussion during her meeting with South Korean officials in Seoul was "charting a path forward" in the pursuit of an alternative to the 1718 Committee Panel of Experts.

"In these conversations, we discussed options both inside and outside the UN system," she told reporters, hours before departing for Japan, where she will stay until Saturday.

The term of the panel of experts is notably scheduled to conclude on April 30, following Russia's veto on March 28 that obstructed the yearly extension of its mandate. The mandate had been consistently renewed annually since the establishment of the panel of experts in 2009.

Thomas-Greenfield emphasized that the US will persist in these discussions in the coming days and weeks, closely coordinating with its South Korean and Japanese partners. She stressed the crucial importance of ensuring that all member states receive independent and accurate reports on North Korea's ongoing weapons proliferation and efforts to evade sanctions.

"We do need to continue to find a path on reporting. So I do think that if the possibilities are there, I think we will eventually find a mechanism to continue to do that reporting," she said.

Thomas-Greenfield emphasized that "Russia and China will continue to try to block those efforts," noting that the two countries have "continued to protect the DPRK from being held accountable."

The ambassador criticized Russia's obstruction, stating that it stems from its involvement in sanctions-busting activities, including the procurement of arms from North Korea in violation of Security Council resolutions.

"And so I don't expect that they will cooperate or agree with any efforts that we make to find another path, but that is not going to stop us from finding that path moving forward," Thomas-Greenfield said, referring to China and Russia.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, holds a news conference at the American Diplomacy House in Seoul on Wednesday, marking the conclusion of her four-day trip to South Korea. (Yonhap) Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, holds a news conference at the American Diplomacy House in Seoul on Wednesday, marking the conclusion of her four-day trip to South Korea. (Yonhap)

N. Korea and Iran

Thomas-Greenfield also voiced concerns when asked about the potential of North Korea developing greater military cooperation with Iran, be it through weapons transfers or technology sharing.

"I think it goes without saying that we are concerned," she said. "We are concerned about the Iranians providing weapons to the Russians and the Russians also supporting efforts to help the DPRK expand their own research into developing weapons. And certainly, that would be the case with Iran as well."

The matter has gained attention following Iran's aerial attack on Israel, which was initiated late Saturday with the launch of a swarm of explosive drones and missiles.

The National Intelligence Service, South Korea's spy agency, said Wednesday that it is closely monitoring whether North Korean technology was involved in the Iranian ballistic missiles used in the recent attack on Israel, considering past instances of cooperation in the missile sector between North Korea and Iran.

Thomas-Greenfield said the UN Security Council should shed light on North Korea's potential military cooperation with Iran.

"So this is something that we, as well as others in the Security Council, have to be seized with. We have to look for every opportunity to call them out but also to hold them accountable," she said.

Thomas-Greenfield also reiterated that sanctions work; otherwise, North Korea would not complain about them.

"The other side of sanctions, however, is implementation. And we need countries to implement. Countries like Russia and Iran have not implemented these sanctions in a way that will allow them to work as effectively as they can," the ambassador said.

"But they are having an impact, and they are, I think, an effective tool to discourage countries from moving in the direction that the DPRK is moving in at the moment."