Russian officials on Thursday pressured an independent panel of United Nations experts to remove embarrassing material from a report on North Korean sanctions violations, according to a top American diplomat.
“Russia can’t be allowed to edit and obstruct independent U.N. reports on North Korea sanctions just because they don’t like what they say,” Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Thursday evening. “We’ve seen the original report and we know the truth — the panel should do the right thing and release it.”
The panel drafted a report for a U.N. committee that monitors the implementation of international sanctions on North Korea. The document “implicated” Russian entities in helping the pariah regime violate sanctions, according to the U.S. side, but the report can be blocked by any member of the Security Council, the panel revised its assessment after Russian officials pushed for the removal of that information, Haley said.
“We’re disappointed in the panel for caving to Russian pressure and making changes to what should be an independent report,” Haley said. “This is a dangerous precedent and a stain on the important work of the panel.”
It’s the second diplomatic dispute in two months involving the 1718 Committee, the body overseeing North Korea sanctions. Haley filed a report in June providing U.S. assessments that the North Korean regime is importing more oil from China and Russia than permissible under a 2017 sanctions package.
If the rest of the Security Council had accepted the finding, North Korea would have come under an automatic oil embargo. But China and Russia blocked the committee from adopting the U.S. position.
“Groundless and irresponsible accusations will not help resolve the Peninsula nuclear issue,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said last week. “We hope the U.S. could respect facts.”
The new report is of a piece with that controversy, as it covered the “oil cap breach” that Haley’s earlier report addressed. “The panel was interested in including information on that and the Russians objected to it,” a Security Council diplomat told the Washington Examiner.
The controversy is taking place just days after a Russian lawmaker traveled to North Korea and said the country “deserve[s] great respect” for its ability to modernize the capital city of Pyongyang “despite all sanctions.”
Haley objected to the release of the revised report, amid U.S. charges that China and Russia are abandoning their commitments to implement sanctions on dictator Kim Jong Un’s regime.
“The full implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions remains mandatory for all Member States — including Russia,” Haley said.