Pompeo Warns Countries Against Abandoning North Korea Sanctions

July 20, 2018 Last Updated: July 20, 2018

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said today that while the United States is committed to maintaining sanctions on North Korea until it dismantles its nuclear arsenal, some countries have broken agreed-upon sanctions by providing petroleum to the rogue regime above and beyond what is allowed.

Speaking in New York on Friday, he briefed the U.N. Security Council on his trip to North Korea earlier this month. He also met with South Korea’s ambassador to the U.N. and Japan’s foreign minister at the South Korean Mission to the U.N.

At a joint press briefing with U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Hayley, Pompeo said that they will continue to press other countries to uphold the sanctions until North Korea makes good on its promises.

“We must also crack down on other forms of sanctions evasion, including the smuggling of coal by sea, smuggling by overland borders, and the presence of North Korean guest workers in certain countries,” he said. “North Korean cyber thefts and other criminal activities are also generating significant revenues for the regime, and they must be stopped.”

The United States tried to stop further shipments of refined petroleum products to North Korea, but the measure was blocked by Russia and China, which are also U.N. Security Council members, Hayley said.

“For China and Russia to block it, what are they telling us?” she said. “Are they telling us that they want to continue supplying this oil?”

Neither she nor Pompeo named the countries accused of skirting the sanctions, but Hayley did say they have images of illegal ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum, the primary way North Korea is getting around the sanctions, Pompeo said.

“These transfers happened at least 89 times in the first five months of this year and they continue to occur. The United States reminds every U.N. member-state of its responsibility to stop illegal ship-to-ship transfers, and we urge them to step up their enforcement efforts as well,” he said.

In February, the U.S. government released an advisory that listed 27 businesses it said were involved in illegally supplying oil to North Korea, mostly through ship-to-ship transfers. The countries where those ships were either flagged, registered, or caught are North Korea, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Marshall Islands, Tanzania, Panama, and Comoros.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to members of the media next to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley at the UN headquarters on July 20, 2018, in New York City. Pompeo met with the U.N. Security Council for a briefing on the North Korea Summit. (Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

Citing a China-based source, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported on Thursday that China has nearly doubled its exports of crude oil to North Korea since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited there in June.

That report follows remarks by President Trump, who said that China may be loosening its border in respect to North Korea, bringing fears in the international community that China could be giving North Korea a lifeline that would scuttle international efforts at denuclearization.

“China must continue to be strong & tight on the Border of North Korea until a deal is made,” he tweeted in May. “The word is that recently the Border has become much more porous and more has been filtering in.”

After Pompeo’s visit to North Korea earlier this month, an unnamed official with the foreign ministry was quoted by state-run KCNA as saying that the United States was using “gangster-like” tactics to get North Korea to stop its nuclear program, adding that the United States’ attitude was “extremely troubling.”

Pomeo has repeatedly brushed off those remarks, and Trump has suggested they may have been instigated by China, which is smarting from tariffs the U.S. recently imposed on Chinese goods.

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