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Pompeo Seeks to Shore Up UN Support for N. Korea Sanctions

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) and the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, in New York on July 20US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) and the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, in New York on July 20

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo sought to shore up support among UN Security Council members for a North Korean sanctions regime that is showing signs of weakening, as hopes for a quick denuclearization agreement with Pyongyang fade.

Standing alongside US Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley in New York on Friday, Pompeo said the US expects countries to honor their commitments to cut off North Korea’s economy. He reiterated accusations that Kim Jong-un’s government is smuggling in refined petroleum products in order to get around the 500,000 barrel per year quota set by the UNSC, reported Bloomberg.

“When sanctions are not enforced, the prospects for successful denuclearization of North Korea are diminished,” Pompeo said, adding that he and US President Donald Trump remain “upbeat” about the possibility that North Korea will give up its nuclear arms.

Senior US officials, including Pompeo and Trump, argue that their “maximum pressure” campaign is the key reason why Kim has said he is willing to give up his nuclear weapons, and have insisted that sanctions will remain in place until that process is complete. At the same time, they have said that China, North Korea’s primary economic and diplomatic partner, has slipped in its enforcement of sanctions.

  Ship-to-Ship Transfers

Pompeo said at least 89 illegal ship-to-ship transfers took place in the first five months of this year, making them the “most prominent means” for North Korea to violate sanctions, which are intended to deprive the isolated nation of hard currency.

Despite the US accusations about smuggling, Russia and China have effectively blocked a US proposal at the UN to halt all additional shipments of refined petroleum products. Like the US, the two Security Council members can exercise a veto on proposals they disagree with.

Critics of the Trump administration’s North Korea strategy have long warned that the administration would have trouble maintaining the sanctions campaign the longer that negotiations with North Korea drag on.

Earlier this year, Pompeo said he expected the bulk of North Korea’s nuclear disarmament to take place in Trump’s first term, but he has since shied away from offering such timelines and now says denuclearization could take some time.

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