Exclusive: China is big gap in North Korea sanctions – U.S.

By Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – China is a “large gap” in U.N. sanctions on North Korea, allowing the North to import luxury goods and to use its air and land routes with little risk of inspection, according to a U.S. report obtained by Reuters on Friday.

The report by the nonpartisan research arm of the U.S. Congress said China is the key to carrying out U.N. sanctions against the North and argues Beijing could devote more resources to detect and stop North Korean violations.

U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted in 2006 and 2009 in response to Pyongyang’s two nuclear tests restricted arms deals, banned trade in technology usable in nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, called for travel bans and asset freezes and banned North Korean imports of luxury goods.

Perks and luxuries such as jewelry, fancy cars and yachts derived from North Korea’s shadowy network of overseas interests are believed to be one of the main tools Pyongyang uses to ensure loyalty among top military and party leaders to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

The United States hopes the sanctions and a cut-off of handouts from South Korea could eventually force the North back to nuclear disarmament talks in the hopes of winning aid.

But the Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in its report that it is “difficult to gauge with any precision how the restrictions are limiting North Korea’s operations” and it also questioned whether the effort to limit luxury imports had actually affected policy-making in the secretive North.

LUGAR: INTERESTS ‘INCONGRUENT’

The report said the sanctions led to several high-profile interdictions of weapons-related shipments and luxury goods, saying China had stopped some shipments of material to the North related to nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

But the report argued that China’s main priority is to maintain regional stability and to limit the economic distress pushes North Korean refugees across its border

“China constitutes a large gap in the circle of countries that have approved U.N.S.C. Resolutions 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009) and are expected to implement them,” the report said, describing China’s approach as “minimalist.”

“North Korea continues to use air and land routes through China with little risk of inspection and luxury goods from China and from other countries trough China continues to flow almost unabated to Pyongyang,” it added.

Senator Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who requested the report, said it provided “a stark reminder that U.S. and Chinese interests regarding North Korea are largely incongruent.”

“While the United States presses for elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, China’s primary focus is on preserving regional stability,” he said in a statement obtained by Reuters.

“China’s less than rigorous approach toward implementing sanctions targeting North Korea should be a wake-up call to this White House in the ongoing development of its North Korea strategy,” he added.

U.S.-North Korean relations have deteriorated since U.S. President Barack Obama took office, with his aides deeply unhappy about Pyongyang conducting nuclear and missile tests last year as well as the March 26 sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan that killed 46 South Korean sailors.

The Obama administration has been skeptical about returning to so-called six-party talks with the two Koreas, China, Japan and Russia on ending the North’s nuclear programs, arguing it does not want to talk for the sake of talking and North Korea must show some commitment to abandoning its atomic ambitions.

While the report noted the North has recently signaled a willingness to return to talks, it said this could indicate the sanctions were having some effect or could be a repetition of the North’s long history of oscillating between “provocation and aid-seeking diplomacy.”

Exclusive: China is big gap in North Korea sanctions – U.S.