This week United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley publicly accused Russia of “cheating” and "actively working to undermine" sanctions imposed by the U.N. on North Korea. In a scheduled meeting between the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, Haley said that the U.S. government is in possession of “evidence of consistent and wide-ranging Russian violations.” Haley’s strong statements brought the friction between the members of the security council into public view and into the headlines on Monday.
Although the U.N. has unanimously agreed since 2016 to uphold sanctions against Pyongyang in an effort to stymie the despotic regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, it is now undeniable that there is discord between some of the council’s most major players. “Russian corruption is like a virus,” Haley declared. “If we're not careful, the sickness will make its way to the integrity and the effectiveness of the Security Council itself.”
Backing up her accusation of the Russians of being cheaters, Haley also stated that Moscow has been helping North Korea to illegally procure fuel via overseas transfers and had failed to expel a North Korean blacklisted by the council last year. The U.S. and its allies have recently increased their efforts to track and document sanctions violations and, according to Haley, Washington officials have collected proof of 148 cases just this year of oil tankers delivering fuel to North Korea, in direct violation of U.N. sanctions. Haley did not clarify how many of these 148 transfers had Russian influence but did specifically mention that in April a Russian ship named the Patriot had been caught on film transferring refined petroleum to a North Korean vessel.
Ambassador Haley’s heated comments were spurred by a dispute over an independent U.N. report on sanctions violations. The original report, according to statements from both Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, specifically cited sanction breaches perpetrated by Russia, which the Russian government then pushed to expunge from the final draft of the report. "Every time the Security Council overlooks sanctions violations, every time we allow the Russians to bury evidence of violations, we remove incentives for Pyongyang to end its nuclear program,” Haley said. The allegation of a cover-up was promptly denied by Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia.
“Russia must cease its violations of North Korea sanctions. It must end its concerted effort to cover up evidence of sanctions violations,” Haley was quoted. “Its violations are not one-offs. They are systematic.” Russian U.N. Ambassador Nebenzia also hurled accusations back at Haley, claiming that she was intentionally using the Security Council meeting to increase tensions between the members.
This all comes after Russia and China jointly suggested that the U.N. security council consider easing sanctions after U.S. President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June to strike an agreement toward denuclearization of North Korea. Haley, disagreeing with this sentiment, said that although what she described as “difficult, sensitive talks” are still in process between the United States and North Korea, the timing is not right to start easing sanctions. Shooting back at Haley, Nebenzia countered that “it is impossible to come to an agreement if you offer nothing in return for your demands,” insinuating that the U.S.’s unwillingness to compromise with a confidence-building measure makes a peace treaty in the Korean peninsula an impossibility.
In addition to highlighting the friction within the U.N. security council, Haley’s bold, damning words at Monday’s meeting are not only proof of friction in terms of international relations, but within U.S. politics as well. At the same time that President Trump publicly plays up an amicable relationship with Russian president and autocrat Vladimir Putin and makes a show of being the first U.S. President to visit North Korea and hold peace talks with Kim Jong Un, his staff clearly makes no pretense of sharing his friendly sentiment towards these longtime enemies of state.
Ambassador Haley’s public challenging of Russia’s actions could lead to a more unified front in fighting for North Korean denuclearization, it could be a wedge driven further into U.S. international relations, or perhaps it’s just another story in the 24-hour news cycle, to be erased from public memory by tomorrow’s tweets.
By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com
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