Foreign Desk Report
NEW YORK: China and Russia on Monday proposed the U.N. Security Council lift a ban on North Korea exporting statues, seafood and textiles, according to a draft resolution seen by Reuters, in a move Russia said is aimed at encouraging talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
The draft also called for a ban to be lifted on North Koreans working abroad and the termination of a 2017 requirement for all such workers to be repatriated by next week. The draft would also exempt inter-Korean rail and road cooperation projects from U.N. sanctions. It was not immediately clear when or if the draft resolution could be put to a vote in the 15-member Security Council. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, France, Britain, Russia or China to pass. “We’re not rushing things,” Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told Reuters, adding that negotiations with council members would begin on Tuesday. He said the sanctions they had proposed lifting were “not directly related to the North Korea nuclear program, this is a humanitarian issue.” A U.S. State Department official said now was not the time for the Security Council to consider lifting sanctions on North Korea as the country was “threatening to conduct an escalated provocation, refusing to meet to discuss denuclearization, and continuing to maintain and advance its prohibited weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.” The sanctions on industries that Russia and China have proposed lifting earned North Korea hundreds of millions of dollars and were put in place in 2016 and 2017 to try and cut off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters on Tuesday that some sanctions should be lifted in light of North Korea’s compliance “with relevant resolutions”.
“We hope the Security Council will speak with one voice in support of a political resolution,” Geng told a regular briefing, adding that the need for a resolution of the situation on the Korean peninsula was becoming more urgent. The United States, Britain and France have insisted that no U.N. sanctions should be lifted until North Korea gives up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Pyongyang has been subject to U.N. sanctions because of those programs since 2006. “On North Korea, as in the past, it’s very important that the council maintains unity,” German U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said on Monday.