Kenya criticises Russia over North Korea sanctions

Martin Kimani

Dr Martin Kimani, Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, during an interview on November 19, 2021. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kenya has criticised Russia, and other powers at the UN Security Council, for what Nairobi argues is the abuse of veto, threatening world peace.

The UN Security Council’s inability to handle urgent security problems across the world has been an issue of debate lately. But Kenya’s comments came up on Thursday night as the UN General Assembly debated the use of the Veto by five members of the UN Security Council: China, Russia, the US, UK and France.

Dr Martin Kimani, Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN argued there was a “common thread” that the Council was finding it “harder to enable the implementation of decisions” and must re-evaluate its use of vetoes.

The case in point is the recent Russian veto of resolutions seeking to extend the mandate of the panel of experts on sanctions on North Korea; a team whose tenure had routinely been extended every year for the last 14 years to oversee a sanction regime on the hermit kingdom.

“The unwillingness to implement the Council’s resolutions, coupled with the erosion of the binding effects of its decisions, if left unchecked, threatens to permanently transform the Security Council into a shadow of its intended self, mirroring the General Assembly,” Kimani said.

He warned the stalemates could “render it less legitimate and less democratic of what it was intended to be undermining its credible role in world affairs.”

Russia had, on March 28, vetoed a resolution that would have extended the mandate of the Panel beyond its expiry on April 28.

The Panel, established under UN Security Council Resolution 1874, had been monitoring a series of sanctions imposed on North Korea since 2006 to curtail its nuclear weapons programme.

The sanctions will remain in force for at least a year, but the Panel won’t be available to monitor violations including on sale of building material for those weapons.

Russia used its veto power to block the extension even though 13 other members of the Council voted for the extension. China abstained and the US, UK and South Korea criticised Moscow’s decision. South Korean diplomat Hwang Joon-kook accused Moscow of destroying a “CCTV to avoid being caught red-handed.”

Moscow’s representative Vasily Nebenzia claimed the panel had “continued to focus on trivial matters that are not commensurate with the problems facing the (Korean) peninsula” and argued the sanctions were not proportionate punishment.

The Panel’s final report last month suggested Moscow was dealing with North Korea in a potential violation of sanctions imposed under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It also suggested Pyongyang had evaded sanctions and earned some $3 billion through cyberattacks on South Korea since 2018, including $750 million in 2023.

It also said North Korea was still testing missiles and that it was creating an army capable of fighting nuclear wars.  

The Kenyan diplomat, who had been critical of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, though says the veto power is an endemic problem in the Security Council, in general, referring to the US's several uses of vetoes on resolutions calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

“The risks that the 1718 Committee will lose its panel of experts’ insight diminishes the binding nature of the Council’s decisions,” he said referring to the North Korean sanctions Committee.

“This is similarly true for resolution 2728 which called for an immediate ceasefire (in Gaza) during Ramadhan and was greeted with a wave of renewed hope in the UN globally…yet immediately after the resolution, a spokesperson of the United States asserted that it was non-binding, effectively equating it with earlier UN General Assembly resolutions.”

Kenya, he said is urging world leaders to renegotiate the mandate of that team whose expiry could undermine “crucial efforts to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula.”