Thursday, 11 April 2024 23:15

General Assembly debates Russia’s veto of DPR Korea sanctions panel

Sharp divisions emerged on Thursday as the General Assembly debated Russia’s veto on the Security Council which blocked renewal of the sanctions panel that monitors the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) nuclear weapon and missile programmes.

This is the third time this year that the world body has met to examine veto use among the Security Council’s permanent members – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States – including on the situation in Gaza regarding a US veto.

Last week, Russia vetoed action to renew the panel of experts’ mandate to assist the Council’s DPRK sanctions committee. Current sanctions include an arms embargo and measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, ballistic missiles and other mass destruction-related programmes.

At the outset of Thursday’s meeting, Assembly President Dennis Francis told ambassadors that the recurring use of the veto undermines international peace and security.

The spectre of nuclear conflict must compel us to move from rhetoric to tangible action,” he said, recalling his visit in October to the demilitarised zone between the Republic of Korea and DPRK – more commonly known as South and North Korea respectively — underlining that the current situation is tense.

UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Russia’s Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia addresses the UN General Assembly.

New draft resolution

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said his delegation had vetoed the draft resolution tabled by the United States for a number of reasons, among them that extending the panel of experts’ mandate would not contribute to normalising the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

“The basic mechanisms of the sanctions are failing,” he said, noting that all other restrictive measures against States are subject to review, but none of that applies to DPRK. “The indefinite maintenance of draconian measures is doomed to fail.”

The panel had been reduced to kowtowing to Western powers amid aggressive propaganda and sabre rattling, he said, while underlining that the sanctions have had severe humanitarian consequences.

As such, he said Russia plans to submit shortly a draft resolution to extend the panel’s mandate for one year, with a clear determination for the Security Council to update the parameters of the sanctions regime.

Ambassador Kim Song of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea addresses the UN General Assembly.
UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Ambassador Kim Song of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea addresses the UN General Assembly.

DPRK condemns double standards

Ambassador Kim Song of DPRK said nuclear weapons are stockpiled in many countries, including the US, yet Pyongyang is the only one facing sanctions.

Inhumane double standards exist in terms of States rights to defend themselves, he said, adding that Council sanctions are the product of the “heinous policies” of the US that hinder DPRK’s sovereignty, right to development and existence.

“This meeting today is not a simple gathering to hear and understand the exercise of the veto,” the ambassador said.

“Rather, it serves as an important occasion to determined whether we will leave Security Council to be a tool of the United States…or we make the Council to ensure justice and impartiality and perform its function as required by the international community.”

Geng Shuang, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of China, addresses the UN General Assembly.
UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Geng Shuang, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of China, addresses the UN General Assembly.

China: Sanctions must not be ‘carved in stone’

Deputy Permanent Representative Geng Shuang of China said the Korean War has long ended, “but the cold war mentality is still lingering”.

There will be no resolution of the current issues if the security concerns of all parties, including DPRK, remain unaddressed, he said, calling on relevant actors to work together to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula and adopt a path to peace.

The current tensions are stymying those efforts, he said, emphasising that dialogue and a political settlement of the matter is needed and the Council must play an active role.

“Sanctions should not be carved in stone,” he said, adding that “harsh sanctions” against DPRK have had a negative effect on the humanitarian situation in the country.

Regarding Russia’s new proposal, he expressed hope that Council members will work productively to extend the panel of experts’ mandate.

Ambassador Joonkook Hwang of the Republic of Korea addresses the UN General Assembly.
UN Photo/Evan Schneider
Ambassador Joonkook Hwang of the Republic of Korea addresses the UN General Assembly.

Republic of Korea: Veto will not silence ongoing efforts

The representative of the Republic of Korea said the veto sends “a dangerous message” and could have a cascading effect on other Council sanctions.

The panel will cease to exist in three weeks, but the sanctions remain in place, he said, encouraging all Member States to abide by these provisions.

In terms of the humanitarian situation, he said the international community has attempted to send aid, Pyongyang had declined.

“The veto will not silence the global non-proliferation regime,” he said, pledging his delegation’s efforts towards the proper functioning of the Security Council and its mechanism for the complete and verifiable denuclearisation of DPRK.

US: ‘We need to uphold our obligations’

Robert Wood, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States, said that as the draft resolution’s penholder, his delegation had sought widespread engagement and that China and Russia have had ample opportunities to discuss sanctions reform in the Council.

Instead, Russia gave Council members an ultimatum that sought one of two outcomes: to prevent sanctions against DPRK or to silence the panel’s investigations, including into Moscow’s procurement of weapons from Pyongyang for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s veto undermines the peace and security architecture and deprives action on one of the Council’s most pressing issues, that of peace on the Korean Peninsula, Mr. Wood said.

“Russia’s already threatening to terminate more UN sanctions mandates that help the Security Council monitor and take action to deter threats to international peace and security,” he said. “This is why it is critical for all of us to raise our voices today in support of the non-proliferation regime, and in opposition to attempts to silence information, we need to uphold our obligations.”