Russia closes the international agency monitoring sanctions on North Korea

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Earlier in 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) met with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un

Russia has shut down a panel of UN experts that has been monitoring sanctions against North Korea for years.

The committee said last week it was investigating reports that Russia had violated the rules by purchasing North Korean weapons such as ballistic missiles for use in Ukraine.

The United Nations Security Council has imposed a series of sanctions on Pyongyang since 2006 over its nuclear weapons program.

These restrictions remain in place, but the expert group set up to monitor violations will now be disbanded.

In a Security Council vote on Thursday, Russia used its veto as a permanent member to block the renewal, while 13 of the other 14 member states present voted in favor. China, Pyongyang's closest ally, abstained from the vote.

Russia's ban sparked a wave of condemnation from the United States, the United Kingdom, South Korea and other Western allies, and comes after a year of high-level public meetings between the leaders of Moscow and Pyongyang.

This is the first time that Russia has prevented the formation of the committee, which is renewed annually by the United Nations Security Council for 14 years.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on social media that Russia's use of its veto amounted to an “admission of guilt” that it had used North Korean weapons in the war.

The US, UK and France told the council that Russia was working to silence the watchdog because it had begun reporting Moscow's violations of the rules, specifically purchasing weapons from North Korea for use on battlefields in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, South Korea's representative to the United Nations criticized Russia's “blind self-centeredness” and said it had no justification to “disband the guards” of the sanctions regime.

“This is almost like destroying a surveillance camera to avoid being caught red-handed,” Ambassador Hwang Joon-kook said.

Russia has consistently denied using North Korean weapons, and its representative at the United Nations again denied these accusations on Thursday.

Vasily Nebenzia also said that the expert committee has no added value.

“The committee continued to focus on trivial issues that are out of proportion to the problems facing the peninsula,” Nebenzia said, adding that the sanctions imposed a “heavy burden” on the North Korean people.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un showed off his country's missiles to the Russian Defense Minister during his visit last year

Since 2019, Russia and China have sought to persuade the Security Council to ease sanctions.

The Security Council first imposed sanctions in 2006 in response to North Korea's nuclear test, and has since issued 10 other resolutions to strengthen sanctions as Pyongyang's nuclear activity continues.

But Kim Jong Un's regime has largely ignored the sanctions, despite their impact on the economy. The North Korean leader has continued to rapidly develop nuclear weapons and has pursued a more aggressive and dangerous military strategy in recent years.

UN experts say North Korea continues to violate sanctions by increasing missile tests and developing nuclear weapons. The regime launched a spy satellite this year – with technology believed to have been provided by Russia.

In violation of sanctions, it also continues to import refined petroleum products and send workers abroad, and the latest UN panel report detailed a campaign of cyber attacks.

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