Commentary on Political Economy

Tuesday, 1 December 2020


U.S. Accuses China of Seeking to Undo North Korea Sanctions

  • ‘No excuses for Beijing’s failures,’ U.S. envoy Wong says
Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang in 2019. 
Xi Jinping and Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang in 2019.  Photographer: Ju Peng/Xinhua via Getty Images

A senior U.S. official accused China of violating United Nations sanctions against North Korea, actions that he said go against a global consensus and undermine efforts to get the isolated regime to give up its nuclear weapons.

“There is no excuse for Beijing’s failures,” Alex Wong, the State Department’s deputy special representative for North Korea, said at a conference Tuesday. “It has the resources to implement its UN sanctions obligations in its coastal waters. But, again, it chooses not to.”

Wong’s comments marked an acknowledgment that a central tenet of U.S. policy toward Pyongyang -- the strict enforcement of sanctions to pressure North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to join denuclearization talks -- has largely collapsed. While officials have in the past noted that China wasn’t adhering to the sanctions as closely as it once did, they’ve rarely been so blunt in calling out the country’s behavior.

But the U.S. relationship with Beijing has soured as President Donald Trump has sought to blame China for the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic, pressure it over the erosion of democratic freedoms in Hong Kong and criticize the government’s treatment of ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region. After initially holding off to preserve trade negotiations, the U.S. has dropped its restraint and now announces new sanctions and other punishments against China on a near-daily basis

In his remarks, Wong not only accused China of failing to enforce sanctions but of trying to “revive trade links and revenue transfers to the North, thereby ensuring Chinese reach into the North’s economy.”

“They are seeking to undo the UN sanctions regime they themselves voted for in 2006, in 2009, in 2013, in 2016, and in 2017,” Wong told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Wong also announced that the State Department was offering a new website for people to report sanctions evasions by North Korea under the Rewards for Justice program. Tipsters whose information pans out may get a reward of as much $5 million, he said.

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