China and Russia urge UN to lift key North Korea sanctions

United Nations (AP) — China and Russia are calling on the U.N. Security Council to terminate sanctions on key North Korean exports such as coal, iron, iron ore and textiles, “with the intent of enhancing the livelihood of the civilian population.”

A draft resolution circulated to council members Monday by the two allies of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would also lift a ban on North Koreans working overseas and terminate a decision to repatriate all those earning income abroad by Dec. 22.

The council expressed concern when the repatriation provision was adopted two years ago that earnings from the nearly 100,000 overseas North Koreans, according to a U.S. estimate, are being used to support the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs..

China and Russia made these and other proposals 16 days before Kim’s end-of-December deadline for the United States to come up with new proposals to revive nuclear diplomacy.

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At Kim’s second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump last February, negotiations faltered after the U.S. rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of the North’s nuclear capabilities.

North Korea has carried out 13 ballistic missile launches since May seeking to pressure Washington, and it has hinted at lifting its moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests if the Trump administration fails to make substantial concessions before the new year.

The proposed resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, welcomes the continuing dialogue between the United States and North Korea and calls on all parties to consider implementing “further practical steps to reduce military tension on the Korean peninsula and probability of any military confrontation by all appropriate means.” Its suggestions include adoption of a formal declaration and/or peace treaty ending the 1950-53 Korean War.

The draft resolution also calls for “prompt resumption of the six-party talks or re-launch of multilateral consultations in any other similar format, with the goal of facilitating a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue.”

The six-party talks involving North Korea, South Korea, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan began in 2003 and led Pyongyang to accept a deal in September 2005 to end its nuclear weapons program in exchange for security, economic and energy benefits. But after difficult negotiations, North Korea refused to accept U.S.-proposed verification methods, and the agreement fell through in December 2008. The six-party talks have been stalled since then.

The China-Russia draft resolution reiterates “that all parties should commit to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” It would call on the nuclear weapon states — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — that are parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to work with North Korea on “the process of practical denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

It welcomes further development of relations between the two Koreas, in particular on rail and road connections, and would exempt the inter-Korean rail and road projects from sanctions.

The proposed resolution would terminate specific provisions in council resolutions adopted in 2016 and 2017 that banned the sale or import of coal, iron and iron ore, textiles and “statues.”

Then U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said in December 2017 that those sanctions would ban over 90% of North Korea’s exports reported in 2016.

The draft resolution would also lift a ban on North Korea’s import of some industrial machinery and transport vehicles used for infrastructure construction that can’t be diverted to the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

It also would ask the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions on North Korea to adopt “the most favorable approach towards requests for exemption from existing U.N. sanctions … for humanitarian and livelihood purposes.”

The Chinese and Russians produced a long list of construction and humanitarian items ranging from railway or tramway materials, iron or steel parts for roofs and windows, screws and bolts, bulldozers, traffic control equipment, vehicles under 20 tons, and firefighting vehicles to sewing needles, radiators for central heating, kitchen articles, air conditioning, dish washers, micro-computers, vacuum cleaners, shovels, axes, agricultural equipment and fire extinguishers.

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