U.S. and Allies Seek New Ways to Enforce North Korea Sanctions

REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks to reporters following a vote on a U.N. Security Council resolution to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza during the conflict between Israel and Hamas, at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., February 20, 2024.

SEOUL (Reuters) – The U.S. and its allies are looking for new ways to enforce sanctions against North Korea, Washington’s envoy to the United Nations said on Monday, amid concerns Pyongyang may now be more emboldened to advance its weapons program.

Russia last month vetoed the annual renewal of a panel of experts that has for 15 years monitored enforcement of U.N. Security Council resolutions against North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield is in Seoul and will also visit Japan to advance cooperation on the sanctions and beyond, said Nate Evans, spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the U.N.

Washington, Seoul and Tokyo criticized Russia’s veto and China’s abstention, with a South Korean envoy likening it to “destroying a CCTV to avoid being caught red-handed.”

Meeting with South Korea’s defense minister, Thomas-Greenfield said the end of the panel’s work creates a vacuum in enforcement and could provide an opportunity for North Korea to advance its programs, the ministry said in a statement.

She said the United States is working on alternatives to draw up reports on sanctions in cooperation with allies, the ministry said.

North Korea says its missile and nuclear programs are for protection against outside threats such as from the United States and South Korea. It denounces sanctions as an infringement of its sovereignty.

Meeting with South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol and Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul, the U.S. diplomat said she supports South Korea’s efforts to deter North Korea’s programs and to promote rights in the reclusive state.

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

Ties between Moscow and Pyongyang strengthened after their leaders met in September.

Pyongyang has been accused by the United States of supplying arms to Moscow for its war in Ukraine. Both Moscow and Pyongyang have denied the accusations, but vowed last year to deepen military relations.