• US 'won't hesitate' to sanction shippers supplying fuel to North Korea

The US State Department says Washington would not hesitate to impose sanctions on any shippers that transfer fuel to North Korea; days after the US ambassador to the United Nations accused Russia of “cheating” on the embargo.

In a statement on Saturday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert accused Pyongyang of continuing to employ tactics to evade UN sanctions, and pressed member states to prohibit ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum fuel to the North.

“The United States will not hesitate to impose sanctions on any individual, entity, or vessel supporting North Korea’s illicit activities, regardless of nationality,” Nauert said.

The UN Security Council has steadily stepped up sanctions on North Korea in an effort to block funding for the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs since 2006.

However, the recent showdown between the US and Russia have demonstrated cracks in the unity of the 15-member council over the issue.

In a heated session on Monday, US Ambassador Nikki Haley accused Moscow of systematically seeking to evade sanctions on Pyongyang.

Washington has “evidence of consistent and wide-ranging Russian violations” of the sanctions, Haley said, adding that Moscow was helping Pyongyang obtain fuel through transfers at sea and had attempted to alter an independent UN report to cover up its operations.

The US envoy said that Washington had tracked “at least 148” cases of oil tankers delivering petroleum products in ship-to-ship transfers to the North but did not say how many of these cases involved Russian ships.

Haley claimed that North Korea had obtained between 800,000 and two million barrels of refined petroleum in the first eight months of the year – well above a UN cap of 500,000 barrels a year.

Both Russia and China have suggested the Security Council discuss easing sanctions after US President Donald Trump declared North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat” following his June 12 meeting with the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in Singapore.

The US, which has been the main sponsor of the international sanctions, says the bans will remain in place until Pyongyang has completely dismantled its nuclear program.

But North Korea says denuclearization will have to be phased, with each stage coming in return for reciprocal steps by the US, potentially including the removal of US forces from the region.

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Sep 23, 2018 12:08 UTC
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