Pompeo accuses Russia of actively working to undermine North Korea sanctions

By David Brunnstrom
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pauses while speaking to members of the media following two days of meetings with Kim Yong Chol, a North Korean senior ruling party official and former intelligence chief, before boarding his plane at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, July 7, 2018. Andrew Harnik/Pool/File Photo via REUTERS

By David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Russia on Friday of actively working to undermine international sanctions on North Korea and said the enforcement of the steps was essential to convince Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons.

"Russia has actively attempted to undermine the U.N. Security Council resolutions, the work of the ... committee at the U.N. that evaluates compliance with sanctions," Pompeo told a news briefing at the State Department.

Pompeo spoke after U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley accused Moscow on Thursday of seeking to cover up breaches of U.N. sanctions on North Korea by Russians by pushing for changes to an independent report on sanctions violations.

Pompeo said he hoped the U.N. sanctions committee would "publish the original document that they intended to publish which shows clear activities related to sanctions and sanctions violations."

"The United States is as committed as ever to continuing to enforce those U.N. Security Council resolutions. We believe they are central to President Trump’s efforts to convince Chairman Kim that full, final denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is necessary," he said.

Pompeo added that the United States was continuing to have "many conversations" with the North Koreans about "how to effectuate achieving all of the commitments made" at a June 12 summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader.

The Russian U.N. mission and the North Korean U.N. mission did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Pompeo’s remarks.

The U.N. Security Council will meet on Monday over the implementation of sanctions on North Korea at the request of Washington.

The report submitted to the Security Council's North Korea sanctions committee last month said Pyongyang had not stopped its nuclear and missile programs and was violating U.N. sanctions on exports.

Diplomats said Russia pressured the independent sanctions monitors to amend the report. One diplomat said the amended report removed some references to Russians accused of breaching sanctions on North Korea.

The Security Council has to agree by consensus on whether to publish the report and the United States objected to releasing the amended document.

Russia and China have suggested the Security Council discuss easing sanctions after the Trump-Kim summit, while Washington and other council members have said there must be strict enforcement of sanctions until Pyongyang acts.

On Thursday, Washington imposed sanctions on a China-based technology firm, its North Korean chief executive and a Russian subsidiary, accusing them of moving illicit funding to North Korea in violation of U.S. sanctions.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom, Lesley Wroughton and Eric Beech in Washington; additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by James Dalgleish)