Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the UN Security Council ministerial meeting on North Korea settlement efforts, New York, September 27, 2018
Mr Secretary of State,
Significant progress has been made in recent months in resolving the problems plaguing the Korean Peninsula. Tensions in the region decreased significantly as a result of the moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests announced by Pyongyang in April, shutting down the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and the decision by the United States and the Republic of Korea to postpone indefinitely the summer military exercises. We noted the successful implementation of the inter-Korean agreements enshrined in the Panmunjom Declaration of April 27, the September visit of the President of the Republic of Korea, Mr Moon Jae-in, to the DPRK and the signing of the Pyongyang Declaration. It reflects the intention of the Korean parties to step up multifaceted cooperation, as well as Pyongyang's commitment to dismantle the Tongchang-ri missile test site and to shut down Yongbyon nuclear facilities, which gives hope for stabilisation in this part of the world.
Russia actively supports the rapprochement between South and North Korea and the efforts to solve the problems of the Korean Peninsula in general. We have been calling on our partners to join in these efforts for a long time now, including as part of implementation of a corresponding roadmap adopted by Russia and China last summer, which is now being de facto implemented. We are convinced that building trust is the key to resolving the Korean Peninsula issues politically and diplomatically. The Pyongyang agreement between the North and the South on restoring rail and road links is a major step toward this end. We call on the Council to support the Pyongyang and Seoul initiatives, which are fully in keeping with the spirit of our decisions. We can’t afford sanctions against the DPRK becoming an instrument of collective punishment.
The lack of trust between Washington and Pyongyang hinders the development of joint measures that the parties could undertake concurrently and in stages to advance the overall settlement process. We propose to sit down and develop a system of international security guarantees, which would serve as a decisive prerequisite for denuclearising the Korean Peninsula.
With Pyongyang demonstrating its willingness to cooperate, and good progress in stabilising the situation in the region, the policy imposed by our Western partners to further tighten the sanctions on the DPRK looks increasingly ill-timed. Given that Pyongyang has undertaken a number of important steps toward denuclearisation, it would appear logical to support these efforts and offer something in return in order to maintain the current positive momentum.
In this regard, I would like to hear clarifications as to why some of our UNSC colleagues keep stubbornly rejecting the possibility of any positive signal coming from the Council regarding Pyongyang's steps toward denuclearising the Korean Peninsula.
As you are aware, talks are a two-way street. The DPRK’s steps on the track of stage-by-stage disarmament should be matched with the easing of sanctions. Action must be matched by action. This is necessary in order to avoid a situation like the JCPOA where our US colleagues, using far-fetched pretexts, unilaterally withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal, thereby violating their obligations under UN Security Council resolutions.
The institutions and mechanisms of the UN and its Security Council must be used to support the settlement processes and the inter-Korean dialogue, rather than be an obstacle. Only then it will be possible to talk about an effective solution to the problems that have piled up in the region, including nuclear ones, based on mutually acceptable agreements. Sanctions and pressure are unlikely to get the job done. Excessive use of the UN Security Council's sanctions toolkit has already led to a situation where member states and international organisations are often unable to maintain normal cultural, sports and diplomatic relations with the DPRK, which have nothing to do with nuclear missile programmes.
The continuous escalation of sanctions has already gone beyond measures to block the channels of financing Pyongyang's banned nuclear-missile programmes and is now threatening North Korean citizens with unnecessary social, economic and humanitarian hardships.
It is appropriate, by the way, to remind everyone that all the UN Security Council resolutions on the DPRK contain not only sanctions, but also provisions on measures to achieve a political and diplomatic settlement on the Korean Peninsula. Ignoring them is tantamount to failure to comply with the consensus agreements reached by the Council on the DPRK.
The so-called autonomous, secondary sanctions against the DPRK and other states imposed by the United States and some of its allies in circumvention and on top of the UN Security Council sanctions are even more objectionable. Such unilateral restrictions not only violate the sovereignty and legitimate interests of member countries and run counter to international trade rules, they also undermine the integrity of the restrictions agreed upon by the Security Council. Again, we urge the countries that impose such sanctions to abandon such practices. We note that these restrictions have become an instrument of unfair competition and scare away business interests from third countries. The case of the DPRK is very telling in this regard. Even things that are not prohibited by the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council are hard to implement because of such illegal practices and businesspeople fearing to end up on sanctions lists. The attempts to “sanctify” such restrictions with the authority of the UN Security Council or its 1718 Sanctions Committee on the DPRK are unacceptable. Questioning the commitment of certain countries to strict compliance with the UNSC resolutions on the DPRK through the Committee cannot be accepted, either.
We advocate that the UN Security Council and its 1718 Committee do their best to find political and diplomatic solutions to the problems of the Korean Peninsula and help create a multilateral security mechanism in Northeast Asia. We also believe that it is time for the Security Council to send a clear message to support the positive dynamics around the Korean Peninsula. This could be done, for example, by adopting an appropriate resolution, which we plan to draft and submit to the Security Council for discussion.
We also consider it important to regularly assess whether particular sanctions on the DPRK should be revised as Pyongyang moves toward abandoning nuclear weapons. For example, we could think of at least some small steps. The UNSC resolutions allow for revising sanctions in case of progress on the political track. In the Panmunjom and Pyongyang declarations, the parties, as I mentioned earlier, confirmed their interest in implementing joint economic projects. Since we all welcomed these agreements, let’s think about creating special conditions at the 1718 Committee for considering applications to withdraw from the sanctions regime in order to pursue inter-Korean cooperation projects agreed upon by Pyongyang and Seoul.
Russia is willing to establish close cooperation with all the stakeholders in order to ensure peace, stability and a comprehensive settlement of the Korean Peninsula’s problems based on equal and non-discriminatory talks with the participation of all interested parties.