China, Russia Ask U.N. to End Sanctions so North Korea Can Import Bolts, Utensils, Vacuums

China and Russia are asking the U.N. to end key sanctions against North Korea, according to the Associated Press, which obtained a draft resolution given to Security Council members.

The resolution says that the sanctions should be lifted "with the intent of enhancing the livelihood of the civilian population" of North Korea. It also encourages North Korea and the U.S. to revive diplomatic discussions. The sanctions have been in place since 2006 and have become steadily tougher over the years.

The draft resolution expands on another resolution proposed by China and Russia in 2019, but it was never fully introduced for a vote because of Western opposition. Diplomats who spoke anonymously to the AP said this one could face a similar fate.

The new resolution calls on U.N. member nations to provide "goods, materials, technology, and financial services needed by North Korea to combat COVID-19, improve livelihoods, and develop the economy," according to the AP.

The resolution also wants exemptions from sanctions to include air conditioners, bolts, iron, kitchen utensils, agricultural equipment, vacuum cleaners, radiators and fire extinguishers.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Yokjon Department Store
China and Russia are urging the U.N. Security Council to end a host of sanctions against North Korea. Above, a Yokjon Department Store employee waits for customers in order to measure their body temperature and disinfect their hands in Pyongyang on October 20. Photo by Kim Won Jin/AFP via Getty Images

China and Russia are also urging the Security Council to end sanctions that include a ban on exports of seafood and textiles, a cap on imports of refined petroleum products, and a prohibition on North Korean citizens working overseas and sending home their earnings.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in 2018 that the sanctions had cut off all North Korean exports and 90 percent of its trade and disbanded the pool of workers that North Korea sent abroad to earn hard currency.

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations said North Korea has failed to comply with sanctions on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The Biden administration "remains committed to the sanctions regime" and calls on all member states to enforce the measures.

On October 19, North Korea fired a newly developed ballistic missile from a submarine in its fifth round of weapons tests in recent weeks, all of which violated U.N. sanctions. It was the North's first underwater-launched test since October 2019 and the highest-profile test since President Joe Biden took office in January.

The China-Russia draft resolution makes no mention of the missile tests. Instead, it notes that North Korea has refrained from conducting nuclear tests since September 2017; has kept to a moratorium on further nuclear tests and test launches of intermediate-range and intercontinental missiles from April 21, 2018; and has taken additional denuclearization measures since.

The proposed resolution underscores "the necessity to respect the legitimate security concerns of the DPRK and ensure the welfare, inherent dignity and rights of people in the DPRK," using the initials of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It reaffirms that U.N. resolutions "are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences" and notes "the serious impact of sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic" within the country.

North Korea is struggling to deal with soaring prices of goods and shortages of medicine and other essential supplies that have accelerated the spread of waterborne diseases such as typhoid fever. The country has yet to report any cases of the coronavirus, though experts have questioned its claim of a perfect record.

The draft resolution would lift a ban on North Korea importing some industrial machinery and transport vehicles used to build infrastructure that can't be diverted to the country's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The draft would end a ban on North Korean government representatives or groups engaging in "scientific and technical cooperation." It would also allow a resumption of exports of giant statues produced in the North.

On the political front, the China-Russia draft welcomed "the positive outcomes" of talks between North and South Korea and between former President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. At Kim's second summit with Trump in Hanoi in February 2019, 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.

South Korea, which has expressed a desire for engagement with North Korea within the boundaries of the U.N. sanctions, did not immediately react to China and Russia's proposals for lifting sanctions on the North.

During a period of diplomacy in 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in met three times with North Korea's leader and vowed to resume inter-Korean economic cooperation when possible, expressing optimism that the sanctions would end and allow such projects.

But North Korea cut off cooperation with South Korea as its diplomacy with the Trump administration derailed in 2019.

North Korean Seafood
Workers carry boxes of seafood on November 8, 2013, as they load a Chinese transport truck at the Suchae Bong Corp. seafood factory in Rajin, North Korea. AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File