US opposes lifting key sanctions against North Korea

US opposes lifting key sanctions against North Korea
The United States said Tuesday that it opposes a draft resolution proposed by China and Russia that would terminate U.N. sanctions on key North Korean exports, calling the measure "premature" at a time when Pyongyang is threatening to conduct "an escalated provocation" and is refusing to meet with U.S. officials to discuss denuclearization.

The U.S. State Department said President Donald Trump "remains committed to making progress toward commitments" he made with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their first summit in Singapore in June 2018 on transforming relations between the two countries, building lasting peace and ensuring complete denuclearization.

A State Department statement said the U.S. remains committed to diplomacy to make progress toward these goals, but it "cannot do this alone."

The draft resolution circulated to U.N. Security Council members Monday night would terminate sanctions on North Korean exports including textiles, seafood and statues with the intent of enhancing the livelihood of the civilian population. It would also lift a ban on North Koreans working overseas and terminate a decision to repatriate all those earning income abroad by Dec. 22.

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.

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 at Kim's second summit with Trump last February.

North Korea has carried out 13 ballistic missile launches since May trying 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.

China's U.N. ambassador, Zhang Jun, told reporters Tuesday that the resolution is not aimed at splitting the 15-member Security Council but pursuing "a united approach approach in obtaining peace and security" on the Korean peninsula and "to send a positive, constructive message to the parties concerned that we do not want a deteriorated situation, we do not want a confrontation."

"You cannot simply expect one party to do more things and with the other party sitting there idle," Zhang said.. "We need both parties to walk towards each other so as to build up mutual trust. With one step forward from one party, and then the other party, makes that two steps forward. That's something positive, that's something constructive."

Otherwise, he said, there will be further mistrust leading to "more negative things and hesitation" and "we'll move backward again, and it will be" even further from denuclearization and peace.

The proposed resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, welcomes the continuing dialogue between the United States and North Korea, 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 included adoption of a formal declaration and/or a peace treaty ending the 1950-53 Korean War.

It 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, and the six-party talks have been stalled since then. 
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