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China says UN sanctions relief for North Korea ‘imperative,’ as deadline nears

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Zhang Jun, the permanent representative of China to the United Nations, speaks during a Security Council meeting at the United Nations, in New York City, the US, on August 20, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

China says it is “imperative” for the United Nations (UN) to ease sanctions on North Korea in order for demilitarization talks between the North and the United States to resume.

Speaking at a UN Security Council meeting on North Korea on Wednesday, Zhang Jun, China’s ambassador to the world body, made a case for quick sanctions relief.

“It is imperative that this Council take action and invoke the reversible provisions in the DPRK-related resolutions as soon as possible in the light of the evolving situation on the peninsula and make necessary adjustments to the sanctions measures,” Jun said, using the abbreviation for North Korea’s official name.

The Chinese envoy said that the Council had to take action to alleviate the suffering of the North Korean people and provide a fruitful environment for talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

The North has been under multiple rounds of harsh sanctions by the UN and the US over its nuclear and missile programs.

Pyongyang and Washington have been involved in on-and-off diplomacy since 2018. While their leaders have met three times, actual negotiations toward the demilitarization of the Korean Peninsula have snagged because Washington refuses to offer any sanctions relief as a concession to encourage more talks. This is while Pyongyang has taken several unilateral goodwill gestures, including demolishing a major nuclear test site.

The urgency sensed in the Wednesday remarks by the Chinese ambassador may be explained by the fact that North Korea has set the end of 2019 as the deadline for the US to act so that diplomacy would come to fruition. Washington has rejected that timeline as artificial.

Already, the prospect of talks is dimming.

On Sunday, Pyongyang said it had conducted a “very important test” at a missile-engine site, possibly a ground-based test of an engine to power a satellite launcher or an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

US warns North

During the Wednesday session of the Security Council, the US ambassador warned Pyongyang against missile tests, while simultaneously offering flexibility if talks resumed.

“Missile and nuclear testing will not bring the DPRK greater security,” said Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the UN, adding, “We trust that the DPRK will turn away from further hostility and threats, and instead make a bold decision to engage with us.”

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