US envoy urges UN Security Council to stay united on North Korea sanctions

US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun during a meeting at the foreign ministry in South Korea, on Feb 9, 2019.
US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun during a meeting at the foreign ministry in South Korea, on Feb 9, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - President Donald Trump's envoy for North Korea called on United Nations Security Council members to stay united in pressuring Kim Jong Un's government to give up its nuclear weapons following the failed talks between Trump and Kim in Hanoi last month.

Special Representative Stephen Biegun briefed council members at the US mission in New York on Thursday (March 14), and stressed the importance of ensuring that UN sanctions are maintained and fully implemented amid ongoing North Korea denuclearisation talks, according to a diplomat who was present at the meeting and requested anonymity to discuss it.

Both China and Russia have called for easing sanctions on North Korea, a move the US thinks could jeopardise the Kim regime's willingness to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

Pressuring Kim through crippling sanctions is crucial to the US effort to get him to abandon his nuclear ambitions. A UN report this week showed North Korea is successfully evading sanctions through elaborate methods to import oil, export coal and hack into foreign banks.

Earlier this week, Biegun told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's nuclear conference in Washington that the US would not accept a phased denuclearisation by North Korea even as he reiterated that the Trump administration is still "very much engaged with our counterparts in North Korea."

Trump said he ended a meeting with Kim in the Vietnamese capital after the North Korean leader had asked for complete sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling the country's main nuclear complex.

The US wanted more action by Pyongyang on hidden nuclear facilities, as well as warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the American mainland.

 
 
 

"We'd lift that pressure, but in exchange for only a portion of those weapons of mass destruction programmes," Biegun said at the Carnegie Endowment conference on Monday.

"That would have put us in a position, a very difficult position, of essentially subsidising what would potentially be ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction in North Korea. We need a total solution."

After a series of missile launches and nuclear weapons tests by North Korea in 2017, the Security Council imposed three rounds of sanctions on Pyongyang, including bans on exports of iron, coal, lead, seafood and textiles as well as some oil-import restrictions.