India backs U.S. on tougher North Korea sanctions; China, Russia veto move

Arul Louis/IANS-

India has voted for a United States-sponsored resolution to strengthen sanctions on North Korea. The resolution was vetoed by China and Russia.

The US launched the unsuccessful effort Thursday to punish North Korea which tested three missiles Wednesday after President Joe Biden wrapped up a visit to South Korea and Japan.

Speaking on the resolution, U.S. Permanent Representative Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned that North Korea was preparing for a nuclear test.

The failed resolution would have tightened sanctions on products ranging from crude oil to tobacco and frozen the assets of a cyber criminal outfit.

The vetoes marked another stage of intensification in the confrontation in the Security Council between the Western powers on one side and China and Russia on the other.

The other 13 countries in the Security Council presented a united front on the issue.

The matter will now go to the General Assembly under new procedures adopted by it following Russia’s vetoes of resolutions in the Security Council condemning its invasion of Ukraine.

Although the General Assembly does not have the enforcement powers of the Security Council, it will now take up issues vetoed by a permanent member in the Council in the expectation that it will show the isolation of the veto-wielder.

India, which had stayed neutral on resolutions on the Ukraine conflict that Russia had vetoed, did not abstain on this one for which the prime opposition came from China, a long-term ally of North Korea’s ruling family.

India did not speak during the discussion on the resolution Thursday but has previously raised concerns about the transfer of North Korean missile technology to Pakistan.

Without naming the two countries, India’s Permanent Representative TS Tirumurti had told the Security Council March 25 that “India also believes there is a pressing need to address the proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies related to DPRK (North Korea) in our region. These linkages have an adverse impact on peace and security in the region, including on India.”

North Korea is believed to have exchanged missile technology for nuclear weapons technology with Pakistan.

Before the session began, China’s Permanent Representatives Zhang Jun went over to Tirumurti, who had been speaking at India’s seat with Brazil’s envoy Ronaldo Costa Filho.

Zhan sat down on a seat for the Indian delegation behind Tirumurti and the three diplomats were seen in animated conversation.

Later, speaking to the Council on the resolution, Zhang tried to link it to the Indo-Pacific developments, asserting that the U.S. was making North Korea a pawn in its strategy for the region.

During his trip to East Asia, Biden had held a Quad summit in Japan with Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India, Fumio Kishida of Japan and the newly elected Anthony Albanese of Australia.

Zhang said: “The crux of the matter is whether or not someone wants to use the Korean peninsula issue as a card for its so-called Indo-Pacific strategy, whether or not they want to use the handling of the Korean peninsula issue as a chessman on the chessboard for their so-called Indo-Pacific strategy. That’s the very nature of the issue.”

He and Russia’s Permanent Representative Vasily Nebenzia said the punitive sanctions would not help resolve the problem with Pyongyang but would only add to the sufferings of the people in the hermit kingdom.

Thomas-Greenfield said the council’s restraint had been counterproductive and “the DPRK has taken the council’s silence as a green light to act with impunity and escalate tensions on the [Korean] peninsula”.

She said the sanctions would not affect the humanitarian needs of the North Korean people who are facing a Covid-19 crisis. The US has offered vaccines and medical help, which Pyongyang has not accepted.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, a mercurial personality, appears to be testing Biden and trying to take advantage of America’s preoccupation with Ukraine. He has carried out at least 16 missile tests so far this year, some of which could be inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Kim Jong-Un suspended missile and nuclear tests in 2017 during a bout of diplomacy with the equally unpredictable former U.S. President Donald Trump, who matched his verbal bluster.

Trump’s diplomatic efforts ended after a failed meeting with Kim in Singapore. Kim resumed missile tests last year, two days after Biden took office.

The sanctions that the U.S. proposed would have cut crude oil exports to North Korea and banned its mineral products exports as well as of some other materials. Tobacco exports to North Korea would also have been curtailed.

The U.S. also sought to freeze the assets of an organization called Lazarus Group, which North Korea uses for cyber heists and espionage and which has been accused of spreading malware.

The freeze would have also applied to a company that provides manpower abroad and to another that is a defense contractor in Mozambique.