Russia Shuts Down UN Watchdog Tracking North Korea Sanctions

Russia Shuts Down UN Watchdog

Russia has disbanded a United Nations panel that has been monitoring sanctions against North Korea for years. The panel had recently begun investigating allegations that Russia had violated the rules by purchasing North Korean weapons, including ballistic missiles, for use in Ukraine.

The UN Security Council has been imposing a series of sanctions on Pyongyang since 2006 due to its nuclear weapons program. These restrictions remain in effect, but the expert group established to monitor violations will now be dissolved.

In a Security Council vote, Russia, a permanent member, used its veto power to prevent the renewal of the panel. Thirteen of the other fourteen member states present voted in favor of the renewal, while China, Pyongyang’s closest ally, abstained.

Russia’s veto sparked widespread condemnation from the US, UK, South Korea, and other Western allies. This comes after a year of high-profile public meetings between Moscow and Pyongyang leaders. This is the first time Russia has blocked the panel, which the UN Security Council has renewed annually for 14 years.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, stated on social media that Russia’s veto was equivalent to a “guilty plea” for using North Korean weapons in the war. The US, UK, and France all told the Council that Russia was silencing the watchdog because it had started reporting on Moscow’s own rule violations, specifically the purchase of weapons from North Korea for use in Ukraine.

South Korea’s representative at the UN criticized Russia’s “blind self-centeredness” and stated that there was no justification for “disbanding the guardians” of the sanctions regime. Ambassador Hwang Joon-kook likened it to “destroying a CCTV to avoid being caught red-handed.”

Russia has consistently denied using North Korean weapons, and its representative at the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, dismissed the accusations again. Nebenzia also argued that the panel of experts had no added value, stating that the panel had continued to focus on trivial matters that were not commensurate with the problems facing the peninsula. He also mentioned that the sanctions had imposed a “heavy burden” on the North Korean people.

Since 2019, Russia and China have been trying to persuade the Security Council to ease sanctions. The Security Council first imposed sanctions in 2006 in response to a North Korean nuclear test and has since passed ten more resolutions strengthening them as Pyongyang’s nuclear activity has continued.

Despite the impact on the economy, Kim Jong Un’s regime has largely ignored the sanctions. The North Korean leader has continued to rapidly develop nuclear weapons and has pursued a more aggressive and dangerous military strategy in recent years.

The UN experts say North Korea continues to flout sanctions by increasing missile test launches and developing nuclear weapons. The regime launched a spy satellite this year, believed to have been provided by Russia. In violation of the sanctions, it continues to import refined petroleum products and send workers overseas. The UN panel’s most recent report detailed a campaign of cyber attacks.

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