UNSC Panel on N. Korea Sanctions: Russia’s Move to Exercise Veto Power Overly Self-serving

The system of surveilling North Korea may have become inconvenient for Russia, but Moscow’s recent move is a dangerous act that threatens world peace and security.

By making the move, Russia itself has proved that it is not qualified to be a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

It has become highly likely that the Security Council’s panel of experts, which monitors the enforcement of sanctions against North Korea, will be abolished at the end of April due to Russia exercising its veto power against a resolution to extend the mandate of the panel by a year.

The panel, which was established in 2009, is comprised of eight experts on import and export control and nuclear nonproliferation from Japan, the United States and South Korea, among other nations. It has played an important role in such work as clarifying the actual situation of a ship-to-ship transfer scheme by which North Korean vessels smuggle goods at sea.

Abolishing the panel does not mean that the various sanctions resolutions will expire, but the monitoring system will inevitably become lax. North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs will certainly accelerate.

It is only natural that Japan, the United States, Britain, France and South Korea harshly condemned Russia’s use of its veto power, describing it in a joint statement as “not the behavior of a responsible U.N. member state.”

Russia had voted in favor of the sanctions resolutions against North Korea through 2017. It had never objected to the previous resolutions to renew the mandate of the panel.

Nevertheless, Russia has drastically changed its stance this time, and it can only be attributed to the fact that Moscow has prioritized its relations with Pyongyang over international cooperation.

The sanctions resolutions prohibit arms transactions with North Korea. However, since last year, North Korea has been providing Russia with missiles and other equipment, which are reportedly being used in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. The panel had been looking into the transactions between Russia and North Korea.

Russia may have wanted to avoid having its arms deals with North Korea revealed. It is possible that Russia is in a situation in which it cannot continue its operations in Ukraine without military assistance from North Korea, because the aggression has become prolonged.

Russia was seeking to set time limits on the sanctions as a condition for voting in favor of the latest resolution to extend the mandate of the panel. Moscow may have planned to exercise its veto power on the renewal of the sanctions, thereby bringing them to an end. This suggests that Russia and North Korea are in a honeymoon phase of their relationship.

In a report released last month, the panel noted that North Korea obtains about half of its foreign currency through cyber-attacks and allocates the money acquired through these crimes to its nuclear and missile development programs.

Japan, the United States and South Korea need to focus their efforts on deterring North Korea’s cybercrimes. This should ultimately bring an end to Pyongyang supporting Moscow and make Russia give up its continued aggression in Ukraine.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 6, 2024)