US pushes UN to maintain sanctions pressure on NKorea

Carole LANDRY
(L-R) US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and South Korean Ambassador to the UN Cho Tae-yul are in New York for UN Security Council talks on North Korea

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday urged UN member-states to keep tough economic sanctions fully in place on North Korea and maintain pressure on Kim Jong Un to dismantle Pyongyang's nuclear program.

"We need to see Chairman Kim do what he promised the world he would do," Pompeo told reporters after meeting with the Security Council.

The United States believes that North Korea can shed its "pariah" status from its nuclear and missile programs, but "it will take full enforcement of sanctions for us to get there," he said.

Pompeo traveled to New York for the one-hour meeting with the council to provide a first briefing to the top UN body on North Korea since Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un's summit.

China and Russia have argued that North Korea should be rewarded with the prospect of eased sanctions for opening up dialogue with the United States and halting missile tests.

But US Ambassador Nikki Haley made clear that the best way to support US diplomacy on North Korea was "to not loosen the sanctions."

"We can't do one thing until we see North Korea respond to their promise to denuclearize," Haley said.

Pompeo's talks in New York came a day after Russia and China put a six-month hold on a US request to cut off deliveries of refined oil to North Korea.

Last week, the United States asked a UN sanctions committee to order a halt to shipments of oil products to North Korea after accusing Pyongyang of exceeding a cap on fuel deliveries with illegal imports.

But Russia and China said they needed more time to consider the US request and to review Washington's allegations of sanctions-busting by North Korea.

Pompeo called for an end to the illegal ship-to-ship transfers of fuel while Haley rejected the Chinese and Russian appeal for more time, saying the United States had photographs as proof of the violations.

Trump opened up prospects for an end to the standoff with North Korea when he met in Singapore on June 12 with Kim, who agreed to work toward denuclearization of the peninsula.

The agreement however was short on details -- North Korea has long trumpeted a denuclearization goal, but one that it sees as a lengthy process of undefined multilateral disarmament, rather than a unilateral dismantlement of its nuclear arsenal.

And more than a month later, no concrete progress has been reported.

- South Korea raises sanctions exemptions -

South Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told the council that it must be ready to grant temporary exemptions to sanctions in specific areas such as communications to help push North Korea toward progress, according to diplomats.

Kang told the council that President Moon Jae-in is expected to visit Pyongyang in the coming months, they said.

On her way into the meeting, Kang said Kim had made a clear commitment to scrap his nuclear and missile programs "and we will hold them up to that commitment."

French Ambassador Francois Delattre said both Pompeo and Kang sought to "confirm the unity and firmness of the Security Council in the full implementation of the sanctions."

Delattre said it was important to avoid "any premature signal of a loosening of sanctions that would be a counter-message."

The council last year adopted three rafts of sanctions targeting North Korea's economy in response to Pyongyang's sixth nuclear test and a series of ballistic missile launches.

Those sanctions banned North Korea's exports of raw commodities while severely restricting supplies of oil -- vital for the country's military.

A UN sanctions resolution adopted last year set ceilings for North Korea of four million barrels of crude oil per year and 500,000 barrels of refined oil products.

The United States last week sent a report to the sanctions committee that said North Korea had secured at least 759,793 barrels of oil products through ship-to-ship transfers at sea.

North Korean tankers reportedly obtain clandestine oil cargo in international waters from ships that often switch off their satellite tracking systems to prevent any monitoring of their activities.

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