New proposal to relieve UN sanctions on North Korea: What do experts think?

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UN Sanctions Relief


The proposal is overly broad and fails to recognize other, major contributing factors to North Korea’s humanitarian crisis,” said Aaron Arnold, a senior associate fellow at the RUSI think tank who served on the U.N.’s Panel of Experts on North Korea until September. “Namely, diverting scarce resources to nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and prioritizing white-elephant projects while 40% of the population suffers from food insecurity.”

...The framing of the sanctions relief package in light of growing humanitarian North Korean problems overlooks the impact of Pyongyang’s own COVID-19-related policies, others pointed out.

“The conflation of the effects of sanctions and of the pandemic ... is a piece of obfuscation,” said John Everard, theU.K.’s former ambassador in Pyongyang. “DPRK economic problems are caused much more by self-imposed isolation in response to the pandemic than by sanctions.”

Arnold agreed, noting that North Korea’s restrictions “have put an effective stop to all in-country humanitarian operations.”

... In addition, experts cited the risk that some of the sanctions relief proposals could directly benefit the financing of proliferation — in particular, the call to “terminate” the UNSC’s ban on overseas North Korean workers.

Arnold said the proposal ignores “that the lion’s share of North Korea’s overseas laborers ... is sent right back to the regime.” That is problematic because many of the DPRK’s labor networks, like Mansudae [Art Studio], are implicated in proliferation-related activities, he added.