After veto, Russia says big powers need to stop 'strangling' North Korea

Russia vetoed the annual renewal of a panel of experts monitoring enforcement of longstanding United Nations sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

Updated - March 29, 2024 10:08 pm IST

Published - March 29, 2024 10:07 pm IST - MOSCOW

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un | Photo Credit: Reuters

Russia said on March 29 that major powers needed a new approach to North Korea, accusing the United States and its allies of ratcheting up military tensions in Asia and seeking to "strangle" the reclusive state.

Russia vetoed the annual renewal of a panel of experts monitoring enforcement of longstanding United Nations sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

Moscow's move, which strikes a blow at the enforcement of a myriad of U.N. sanctions imposed after Pyongyang carried out its first nuclear test in 2006, underscores the dividend that Kim Jong-un has earned by moving closer to President Vladimir Putin amid the war in Ukraine.

Also Read | The quick transformation of Russia-North Korea ties

"It is obvious to us that the UN Security Council can no longer use old templates in relation to the problems of the Korean Peninsula," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Ms. Zakharova said the U.S. was stoking military tensions, that international restrictions had not improved the security situation and that there were severe humanitarian consequences for the population of North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

"The United States and its allies have clearly demonstrated that their interest does not extend beyond the task of 'strangling' the DPRK by all available means, and a peaceful settlement is not on the agenda at all," she said.

The U.S. State Department said on Thursday that Russia's veto had "cynically undermined international peace and security" and accused Moscow of seeking to bury reporting by the panel of experts on its own "collusion" with North Korea to get weapons.

"Russia alone will own the outcome of this veto: a DPRK more emboldened to reckless behavior and destabilizing provocations, as well as reduced prospects for an enduring peace on the Korean Peninsula," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

The Russian veto is seen as a major turning point in the international sanctions regime against North Korea, which was formed in 1948 with the backing of the then-Soviet Union while the Republic of Korea was backed by the United States.

North Korea is the only country to have conducted nuclear tests in the 21st century - in 2006, 2009, 2013, twice in 2016, and 2017, according to the United Nations.

Russia said the experts' work was neither objective nor impartial, and that they had turned into a tool of the West.

"The Group of Experts of the UN Security Council Committee 1718 has lost all standards of objectivity and impartiality, which should be integral characteristics of its mandate," Zakharova said.

She said the experts had "turned into an obedient tool of the DPRK's geopolitical opponents. There is no point in saving it in this form".

The veto illustrates just how far the Ukraine war, which triggered the deepest crisis in Russia's relations with the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, has undermined big-power cooperation on other major global issues.

Since Mr. Putin ordered the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Moscow has gone out of its way to parade a renaissance of its relationship - including military ties - with Pyongyang.

Washington says North Korea has supplied Russia with missiles that it is using against Ukraine, assertions which have been dismissed by the Kremlin and Pygonyang.

For Mr. Putin, who says Russia is locked in an existential battle with the West over Ukraine, courting Kim allows him to needle Washington and its Asian allies while securing a deep supply of artillery for the Ukraine war.

For Mr. Kim, who has pledged to accelerate production of nuclear weapons to deter what he casts as U.S. provocations, Russia is a big power ally with deep stores of advanced missile, military, space and nuclear technology.

Russia, Ms. Zakharova said, sought a compromise under which sanctions would be reviewed over specific time limits, though that proposal had been met with "hostility" by Washington.

"We call on the parties concerned to refrain from escalating steps and reconfigure themselves to find ways to detente, taking into account known security priorities," Ms. Zakharova said.

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