Russia and China have blocked a US initiative at the United Nations aimed at halting deliveries of refined oil to North Korea as Washington attempts to keep up economic pressure on Pyongyang, a policy that is blamed for a halt in the diplomatic process between the two sides.
Diplomatic sources said Tuesday that Moscow and Beijing put a hold on the initiative, which had urged a UN sanctions committee to rule that the North had exceeded its annual cap of 500,000 barrels of fuel imports, and that all countries should stop fuel deliveries to the country, AFP reported.
Those limits are part of a UN sanctions resolution adopted last year, under which crude oil supplies to North Korea were limited to 4 million barrels per year, with a ceiling of 500,000 barrels put on refined oil products.
Washington’s request was backed by 25 UN members, including its close allies Japan, France and Germany, according to the report.
Russia and China, however, said they needed more time to examine the allegations against, the sources said.
“Russia is closely examining this request and is seeking additional information on every single case of ‘illegal’ transfer of petroleum to the DPRK claimed by the US,” Russia’s UN mission said in an e-mail to council members, using an acronym for the official name of North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In turn, the Chinese mission said, “We also request the US side to provide additional factual information to facilitate all states to study and make judgment.”
In a report sent to the UN committee, Washington had said, “The United States and its partners remain gravely concerned about the degree of UN Security Council resolution violations that are occurring in relation to North Korea’s import of refined petroleum products.”
The US and Japan have documented at least eight alleged illegal ship-to-ship transfers of fuel involving North Korea-flagged tankers, the report said. An additional 70 instances of fuel deliveries on the high seas were detected by the United States between January and April, it added.
In a similar development last year, the United States accused North Korea of exceeding the annual quota on fuel imports through illegal ship transfers, but Russia and China raised questions about the data and no action was taken.
North Korea says the seizure of one of its cargo ships by the US violates the spirit of a summit deal between the leaders of the two countries in June 2018.
North Korea has been under a raft of harsh UN sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear tests as well as multiple rocket and missile launches.
Over the past year US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong- un have held two summits, but the second meeting, held in Vietnam, ended abruptly when the two failed to agree on what the North would be willing to give up in exchange for sanctions relief.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in called last week for Trump and Kim to meet again soon, saying a prolonged impasse could weaken their willingness to pursue dialog on the Korean peninsula.
Pyongyang has taken several steps toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula by suspending missile and nuclear testing, demolishing at least one nuclear test site, and agreeing to allow international inspectors into a missile engine test facility.
The US, however, has insisted that all sanctions on the North must remain in place until it completely and irreversibly dismantles its nuclear program.