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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Backs Off From North Korea Sanctions

Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev on Thursday dropped Russian support for United Nations sanctions against North Korea, expressing irritation that the United States had drafted the proposed resolution without first consulting Moscow. Kozyrev told reporters that Russia would not support the draft Security Council resolution that was circulated by U.S. delegates Wednesday. The draft, which aims to pressure North Korea into compliance with the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, would block arms sales, air traffic and development aid to North Korea if it continued to block international inspectors from suspected nuclear-weapon construction sites. A Foreign Ministry official said later that Russia would only consider sanctions after an international peace conference has been convened and failed. Neither he nor Kozyrev would say if Russia would veto or abstain if the proposal were submitted to the Security Council for a vote. China has also come out against the U.S. proposal, but officials in Beijing similarly declined to say whether China would veto it or abstain, Reuters said. Russia, China, France and Britain can all veto the proposal in the Security Council. Kozyrev had given cautious support for sanctions as late as Wednesday, though he also lobbied for his proposal to hold an international conference involving both Koreas, Russia, the United States, China, Japan and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Speaking on Russian television, Kozyrev made it clear he was irritated with the United States for failing to consult him before releasing the draft. "I think that tabling the draft unilaterally will make it much more difficult for us to consider the document," Kozyrev said. "In any case, we will not support a set of sanctions that is proposed without our approval beforehand." The U.S. proposal would, after a 30-day grace period, first ban arms sales, air traffic and development aid to North Korea. After a second Security Council vote, financial transactions would be frozen as well, including an estimated$600 million in badly needed hard currency remitted annually by North Koreans living in Japan, Reuters reported. North Korea, a former ally of the Soviet Union, has repeatedly warned that sanctions would mean renewed war on the Korean Peninsula, and raised tensions this week by announcing it would quit the IAEA. Valentin Moiseyev, head of the Korean department at the Foreign Ministry, said U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering had handed the draft resolution to the Foreign Ministry on Thursday. In response, the ministry told the United States that Russia would only support sanctions after a Russian plan for an international conference failed, Moiseyev said. "We are not for sanctions at all," Moiseyev said in a telephone interview. "I can't approve this draft." "If necessary, we will support" sanctions, Moiseyev added, "if all other means are exhausted. I don't think they are exhausted yet." Moiseyev declined to say, however, whether Russia would veto or abstain if the U.S. proposal was put up for a vote in the Security Council. He said he expected the United States would change its proposal to avoid a conflict with Russia. At the U.S. mission in the United Nations in New York, spokesman Jonathan Earrett said the draft would still be negotiated with Russia and China before being submitted to a vote. "It's only a draft," he said. "No date has been set for the vote." On Friday, Kozyrev is due to explain his stance on North Korea in the State Duma, which has tried to push him towards a more nationalistic and independent Russian foreign policy. Interfax quoted Duma speaker Ivan Rybkin, visiting Bonn, as saying that sanctions were possible but only after "serious warnings." Rybkin supported Kozyrev's proposal for an international conference, Interfax said. Sanctions against North Korea, already plunged in a deep economic crisis, could keep the country from repaying billions of dollars in Soviet-era debts to Russia. (AP, Reuters, MT)