Putin signs decree imposing restrictions on N. Korea as Pyongyang delegation is in Russia

Putin signs decree imposing restrictions on N. Korea as Pyongyang delegation is in Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree imposing restrictions on North Korea in order to comply with a UN Security Council resolution.

The decree specifically refers to the UN Security Council resolution on restrictions imposed against North Korea in November 2016. The document, spanning almost 40 pages, specifies certain punitive measures that were introduced in 2007. It also refers to 11 North Korean individuals, who have been linked with the country’s nuclear program.

The move comes as a North Korean delegation arrived in St. Petersburg for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) assembly.

The decree will also affect cooperation in the area of science and technology, while collaboration in “nuclear science and technology, air-and-space machine engineering or state-of-the-art industrial technology and methods” will still be permitted in cases where it does not contribute to the North’s nuclear- and ballistic-missile program.

President Putin has also ordered that sea vessels linked to the nuclear program be stripped of their Russian registration and banned from entering Russian ports, except in emergencies. The Russian sanctions also cover delivery of new helicopters and ships to North Korea.

Pyongyang has also been slapped with restrictions on ‘luxury’ items, such as carpets and porcelain worth more than $500 and $100 respectively.

Among other things, North Korea won’t be able to use any property in Russia, except diplomatic and consulate facilities.

On Monday, the EU also adopted a new range of sanctions against Pyongyang, which are designed to punish the North for its “continued and accelerated nuclear- and ballistic-missile programs.”

The decision taken on Monday made changes to penalties that were introduced earlier in response to the North Korean ballistic launches. These prohibited the import, sale or transfer of petroleum by the state, as well as transactions involving crude oil to Pyongyang. The fresh range of restrictions also extends to the transfer of funds.

READ MORE: N. Korea threatens Guam with ‘salvo of missiles’ as US gears up for drills with Seoul

In the meantime, the Pyongyang representative called the US sanctions “state terrorism” in a speech at the IPU session. “Sanctions against the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] are aimed at a complete halt of our foreign trade, including the areas which affect the survival of our people,” the delegation head said, as cited by Interfax. “It’s state terrorism.”

Courtesy: RT

N. Korea vows to sink Japan for ‘dancing to US tune’ & reduce US to ‘ashes and darkness’

N. Korea vows to sink Japan for ‘dancing to US tune’ & reduce US to ‘ashes and darkness’
Pyongyang says it is the time to “annihilate” the US and turn it into “ashes” for initiating the latest round of sanctions. The North has also threatened Washington’s allies in the region, vowing to “sink” Japan and “wipe out” South Korea.

North Korea made yet another threat to the US and its allies in the region, Japan and South Korea, on Wednesday, KCNA reported. The North accused the US of “cooking up” the latest restrictive measures against it and demanded that the US be beaten “to death as a stick is fit for a rabid dog.”

The 15-member United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously approved a new round of sanctions on Monday, targeting North Korea’s textile exports and oil imports following Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test.

“There’s limit to patience,” the North’s state-run KCNA state news agency cited the spokesperson of the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee as saying on Thursday. He accused the whole UN body of being a “tool of evil” serving Washington interests.

“Now is the time to annihilate the US imperialist aggressors. Let’s reduce the US mainland into ashes and darkness,” the communist outlet reported, also vowing to resort to “all retaliation means which have been prepared till now.”

Pyongyang says that the previous intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) flight over Japanese territory has not brought Tokyo to its senses, and it continues “to dance to the tune of the US sanctions.”

“The four islands of the [Japanese] archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche. Japan is no longer needed to exist near us,” KCNA stated. Juche is the official state ideology of North Korea, which was designed by the grandfather of Kim Jong-un, President Kim Il-sung, and emphasizes national self-reliance and independence.

READ MORE: UN Security Council unanimously adopts tougher sanctions on North Korea

Tokyo blasted the North Korean statement as “extremely provocative and egregious.”

“It is something that markedly heightens regional tension and is absolutely unacceptable,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated on Thursday, as cited by Reuters.

At the same time, North Korea sees its southern neighbor’s support of sanctions as “treason” against “fellow countrymen” and promised to wipe “traitors and dogs of the US” out for the sake of reunification.

“The group of pro-American traitors should be severely punished and wiped out with fire attack so that they could no longer survive. Only then, the entire Korean nation can thrive in a reunified territory to be proud of in the world.”

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are rapidly mounting with North Korea continuing its missile and nuclear tests and the US, South Korean and Japanese holding drills in the area. Pyongyang says the boosting of its missile and nuclear program is justified with defense from military maneuvers.

Moscow has repeatedly warned against the escalation of the Korean crisis and advocated a diplomatic solution. Together with China, Russia has repeatedly proposed a double-freeze plan, calling for the simultaneous suspension of Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests and a halt in joint US-South Korea military exercises.

READ MORE: North Korea sanctions ‘nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen’ – Trump

Despite the plan being rejected by Washington, some of the Russian and Chinese concerns were included in the recent UNSC resolution. However, Russia doubts that sanctions are an effective tool to influence Pyongyang. US President Donald Trump has characterized the sanctions as “a small step,” which “are nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen.”

Courtesy, RT

How North Korea survives on an oil-drip from Russia

Russia has voted in favor of new sanctions against North Korea in the United Nations Security Council, even though they include new oil sanctions. The Russian resource plays a much greater role than previously thought.

North Korea Propaganda

“Oil is the life blood of North Korea’s effort to build and fund a nuclear weapon,” said US ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Nikki Haley after the UN Security Council voted to apply new sanctionsagainst the communist country Monday in New York. Washington would like to cut off oil exports to Pyongyang altogether but has been repeatedly thwarted by Russian and Chinese opposition. Moscow, which is fundamentally opposed to tough sanctions against North Korea, feels it deserves credit for single-handedly watering down legislation so far.

Thus, there will be no oil embargo. Instead, the latest UN Resolution places limits on the delivery of petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel effective from October 1. From 2018 onwards North Korea will only be allowed to import about two million barrels of foreign oil each year. Depending on which estimates one uses, that would mean a 10-to-50 percent reduction in foreign oil imports. Until now, China was thought to be North Korea’s largest oil supplier but Russian imports have been growing steadily of late.

Read more: Germany, China back ‘peaceful’ dialogue with North Korea

United Nations Security Council holds an emergency meetingThe UN Security Council passed the new round of sanctions at the beginning of September

Trading in the gray zone

When Japan and South Korea asked Russia to stop delivering oil to North Korea before the vote at the Security Council, President Vladimir Putin played it down. He said that Russia was only exporting about “40,000 tons of oil and petroleum products per quarter.” A paltry sum compared to the hundreds of millions of tons that Russia exports to the world market. Moreover, Putin said that large Russian commodity companies were not involved in trade with North Korea.

Nevertheless, even at those small amounts the country has almost doubled its gasoline and diesel fuel exports to North Korea in the first half of 2017 according to Russian media reports based upon records from Russia’s tax authority.

But in reality the actual amount of oil being exported is likely much higher than those official records state. A former North Korean official who defected to South Korea and now lives in the United States gave an interview in June in which he claimed that Russia was actually delivering some 200,000 to 300,000 tons of oil to Pyongyang each year. Artyom Lukin of the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia, agrees with that estimate. “At current prices that amount of oil would add up to about $300 million (252 million euros) a year,” said the foreign policy expert while speaking with DW. If that number were true then it would be more than three times higher than official trade volume figures suggest. The reason: trading takes place in gray zones away from official markets, and the resource is often routed through China.

Read more: Vladimir Putin warns against ‘global catastrophe’ over North Korea nuclear crisis

Watch video02:19

Putin warns of global ‘catastrophe’ over N Korea conflict

Detour via China

The majority of Russia’s oil deliveries to North Korea are transacted through middlemen and therefore do not appear on official customs documents, says Lukin. “For instance, a gasoline delivery will be declared to be destined for China or Singapore, but then it shows up in North Korea.” The reason for that is that sanctions against trading with North Korea make bank transfers “practically impossible.” Therefore Russian suppliers need to use well-connected “Chinese middlemen.”

The Washington Post has also reported on Russia’s circuitous sales of oil to North Korea. Among other things, the newspaper based its findings on increased tanker traffic between the Russian port of Vladivostok and North Korea in the spring of 2017.

If true, such actions would be a violation of US sanctions against Pyongyang. In June, Washington imposed sanctions on the International Petroleum Company (IPC), a privately owned Russian firm run by Eduard Khudainatov who was formerly the CEO of Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil and gas company. The US sanctions also hit IPC subsidiary NNK-Primornefteprodukt, which distributes petroleum products produced at its Khabarovsk refinery and also owns oil reservoirs in Vladivostok harbor. Khudainatov told Russia’s TASS news agency that the sanctions were politically motivated. Moscow rejects US imposed limits and points to the fact that to date there have been no UN sanctions against oil deliveries to North Korea. Artyom Lukin says that Russia has not broken any international laws.

Read more: Brazil fascinated by mysterious North Korea

Closer trade relations since 2014

Moscow has been steadily strengthening its relationship with Pyongyang over the last three years as part of its so-called “eastward pivot,” which has in turn been sped by Russia’s conflict with the West over its annexation of Crimea.

In 2014 Russia extended debt relief to North Korea, taking a loss of around $10 billion on loans stemming from the days of the former Soviet Union. That same year both countries agreed upon the ruble as the currency for all future transactions. In 2015 the Russian Chamber of Commerce established an economic council for relations with North Korea. Russia’s then minister for Far East development announced that Moscow intended to increase its trade volume with North Korea tenfold – to roughly $1 billion – by the year 2020. But so far nothing has come of that. Trade dropped from about $113 million in 2013 to roughly $77 million last year, although in 2017 – thanks mainly to oil exports – customs officials have registered an increase.

Read more: What is China’s role in the North Korean crisis

Legal trade still possible

The latest UN sanctions will likely “reduce” Russian oil exports to North Korea, feels Artyom Lukin. But he says there is still room for Russia to conduct legal trade with North Korea. Still, the expert from Vladivostok predicts that one thing might become a real problem for Russian oil suppliers: the dwindling state of Pyongyang’s coffers.

Lukin says the UN sanctions hit North Korea hard because they severely limit its ability to export goods and resources. “Where is North Korea supposed to get the money to pay for gasoline from Russia or anywhere else?”

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North Korea issues threat ahead of UN sanctions vote

North Korea has said the US will pay a heavy price if the UN Security Council passes a new round of sanctions against Pyongyang. If approved, the sanctions would be the toughest ever issued against North Korea.

Nordkorea Kim Jong Un Armee Offiziere (Reuters/KCNA)

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement early on Monday saying that it was “ready and willing” to respond with its own measures should a new round of sanctions be approved later in the day.

Watch video01:04

China was North Korea’s last major trading partner.

Pyongyang is “ready and willing to use any form of ultimate means,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the country could cause the US “the greatest pain and suffering it had ever gone through in its entire history.”

The UN Security Council is due to vote on Monday afternoon, New York time, on a draft proposal of sanctions against the reclusive state.

Should they be approved, the measures would be the toughest sanctions ever passed against Pyongyang.

The Washington-drafted sanctions reportedly include a proposal to freeze leader Kim Jong Un’s assets and to place a ban on all oil and natural gas exports to the country.

“The U.S. is trying to use the DPRK’s legitimate self-defensive measures as an excuse to strangle and completely suffocate it,” the North’s statement said, using the acronym for the country’s formal name.

Read more: A closer look at which countries trade with North Korea

Infografik Nordkorea Import Export Partner ENG

Security Council due to vote

It was not clear whether veto-holding Russia and China would support the sanctions.

Prior UN sanctions resolutions have taken weeks or months of negations between the US and China, but the Trump administration demanded a quick turnaround for the vote.

The sanctions are in response to North Korea’s ongoing nuclear weapon and missile programs and its latest nuclear test.

On September 3, Pyongyang tested what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb in the most powerful nuclear test conducted by the country so far.

Read more: US-South Korea military drills – an unnecessary provocation of Kim Jong Un?

Infografik Kronologie Atomwaffentests Nordkorea ENG

A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the US, Britain, France, Russia or China to pass. Washington circulated its draft resolution to the 15-member council last Wednesday.

The UN imposed its most severe round of sanctions against North Korea just weeks ago, which included a complete ban on coal and iron exports as well as blocking international sales of North Korean seafood and lead ore.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leaders have expressed doubt over whether sanctions are an effective way to get the North to stop its missile tests. Beijing has repeatedly hesitated in the past to fully support US sanction plans.

Read more: North Korea: Germany, China back ‘peaceful’ dialogue

In an interview published Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also stressed the importance of diplomacy in defusing tensions with Pyongyang. She also offered to facilitate the talks if needed.

“If our participation in talks is wanted, I will say yes immediately,” she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper.

rs/jm (AP, dpa, Reuters)

Watch video02:19

Putin warns of global ‘catastrophe’ over N Korea conflict

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A closer look at which countries trade with North Korea

US President Donald Trump has suggested that the United States could cease trading with any country that “does business” with North Korea. But which countries actually trade with the reclusive communist state?

The inter-Korean Transit Office near the border village of Panmunjom

“The United States is considering stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.” So tweeted US President Donald Trump on Sunday, following the latest escalation of tensions between the two countries.

The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.

Precisely what Mr. Trump means by “doing business” is not entirely clear, but what if it means trade?

In terms of global trade, North Korea is not a big player. According to 2015 figures from the CIA World Factbook, it ranks well outside the top 100 both in terms of exports and imports. Yet the countries it trades with are big players – among the biggest, in fact.

China, the world’s largest export economy, shares a 1,420-kilometer (882-mile) border with North Korea and it is by a huge distance the communist state’s biggest trading partner. According to an extensive 2015 study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Observatory of Economic Complexity, China accounts for 83 percent of North Korean exports and 85 percent of its imports.

Kim Jong-Un visits domestic fruit farmNorth Korea’s leadership is interested in making the country more self-sufficient, but that has proven a tall order

Were the US to cease all trade with China, it would have monumental implications for international trade and for the global economy. Only Canada and Mexico import more goods from the US than China (which accounts for 9.3 percent of US exports) while 21 percent of US imports come from China, making the two countries each other’s biggest trading partner.

Huge impact on trade flows

India is North Korea’s second-biggest trading partner, accounting for 3.1 percent of imports and 3.5 percent of exports. The world’s most populous democracy is the USA’s ninth-biggest trading partner, so a ceasing of trade between the US and India would have major implications too.

North Korea’s Asian neighbors make up the bulk of its remaining trade partners. In terms of exports, Pakistan (1.5 percent) and Saudi Arabia (0.89 percent) head a lengthy group of smaller export destinations while African nations such as Burkina Faso (1.2 percent) and Zambia (0.49 percent) also trade with North Korea. In terms of imports beyond those from China and India, North Korea receives goods from Russia (2.3 percent), Thailand (2.1 percent), the Philippines (1.5 percent) and Mexico (1.3 percent), ahead of a host of others.

Import Export Partner for North Korea graphic

While North Korea’s trade beyond that which it does with China retreats towards the miniscule, it conducts trade of some kind or another with well over 100 nations. Germany – the world’s third- biggest exporter – is among them, albeit on a tiny scale.

In 2015, Germany imported $3.4 million (2.9 million euros) worth of goods from North Korea, namely ferroalloys (a type of iron), wire rope and X-Ray equipment, and it exported $7.4 million worth of goods to the country, primarily packaged medications.

In total, North Korea exports $2.83 billion worth of goods and imports to the tune of $3.47 billion (2015 figures). Its major exports are coal and clothing, both of which comprise around a third of goods leaving the country. It imports a very wide variety of goods, ranging from broadcasting equipment to soybean oil.

Watch video01:22

North Korean economy grows by nearly 4 percent

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US and Russia chief diplomats show ‘readiness’ to talk despite escalating tensions

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and US Secretary of State Tillerson have met for lengthy talks amidst rising tensions between the two nations. Their meeting follows fresh US sanctions and Russia’s US diplomat expulsion.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Manila

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Sunday that despite tensions with Washington, he believed his US colleagues were prepared to keep communication lines open with Moscow.

“We felt the readiness of our US colleagues to continue dialogue. I think there’s no alternative to that,” Lavrov told reporters after what he said was a lengthy meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (above photo).

Watch video01:17

Russian-German ventures to be hit by US sanctions

Lavrov said his US counterpart asked him extensively about Russia’s decision to expel US diplomats in retaliation for Washington’s latest round of economic sanctions on Moscow.

Read more: Donald Trump signs Russia sanctions bill into law

“He was primarily interested … in details of those decisions that we grudgingly made in response to the law on anti-Russian sanctions,” Lavrov said. He said he shared with Tillerson how Russia planned to carry out the expulsions but didn’t provide details to reporters.

Tillerson emerged from the meeting an hour after it started without taking questions or giving remarks to reporters.

Ukraine talks expected soon

In addition to discussing issues with North Korea and cooperation on cybercrime, Lavrov said Moscow and Washington’s envoys were set to discuss Ukraine.

US President Donald Trump’s special representative for Ukraine negotiations will soon make his first visit to Moscow to discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Read more: US sanctions on Russia could endanger energy security for EU

Watch video01:44

Ongoing tensions between US, Russia

Lavrov also said that Tillerson agreed to resume talks between US Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon and Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov. The channel of communication was initially created to discuss hot spots, but it was suspended after the US imposed tighter sanctions on Russia.

Strained ties

On Thursday, Trump reluctantly signed into law sanctions that target the Russian energy sector and place new limits on US investment in Russian companies.

Lawmakers in Congress passed the bill as a response to Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, its involvement in the Syrian conflict and its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Read more: Relations with Trump and Putin – What’s the next move?

Russia said the sanctions amounted to a full economic war and ordered Washington to cut 755 of its 1,200 embassy and consulate staff in Russia. They also seized two US diplomatic properties.

There has been some confusion regarding the cuts as the US is believed to have far fewer than 755 American employees working in the country.

Russia has repeatedly rejected allegations that it interfered in the US election while Trump has denied any collusion with Moscow.

rs/tj (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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North Korea drought threatens famine and instability

As N. Korea suffers its worst drought since 2001, experts warn that food shortages will lead to more internal instability. Outside aid is critical, even as Pyongyang continues to test missiles. Julian Ryall reports.

Düre in Nordkorea (picture alliance / dpa)

According to a report released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on July 20, prolonged dry weather in the central and southern cereal-producing provinces in North Korea has led to “serious concerns” about the final production of the internationally isolated country’s main cropping season.

Extreme drought in these critical growing regions since late April could drastically effect yields of staple crops and put millions of people at risk of malnutrition. The FAO report also states that Pyongyang will need to import more than 500,000 tons of cereal to stave off famine.

“If rains do not improve soon, the 2017 cereal output may decrease significantly, further worsening the local food security situation,” the report stated. “Immediate interventions are needed to support the affected farmers and prevent negative coping strategies for the most vulnerable households.”

The report specifically outlines how crops of rice, corn, potatoes and soybeans have been hit along with herds of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and poultry being severely affected.

North Korea’s agricultural sector is also hampered by a low level of mechanization, poor irrigation and a shortage of fertilizers, all of which are long-term problems for the North’s farmers.

Another ‘arduous march?’

Welthungerhilfe Nordkorea (Getty Images)A malnourished N. Korean child receives food supplied by the UN in 2004

A new food crisis in North Korea also has the potential to stir discontent among the country’s middle class, who still remember the four-year famine in the mid-1990s that the regime euphemistically refers to as the “Arduous March.”

According to the South Korea-based Daily NK news website, the price of high-quality rice in the three key markets of Pyongyang, Sinuiju and Hyesan increased 10 percent in June alone.

It was the third consecutive month in which the price of this staple foodstuff increased and there are reports of people stockpiling out of concern for what the future holds.

Read:Dissidents reveal famine in homeland

“It has been reported that the North Korea government has recently cut the daily food ration for everyone,” Rah Jong Yil, a former head of South Korean intelligence, told DW.

“And while things are not as bad as during the ‘Arduous March’ period, there are some very small signs of discontent with the regime,” he said. “There are more conversations among close friends who are asking if the regime is over-doing the threats against the international community.”

The intelligence expert also said that it seems North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is sensing discontent.

“In one of his most recent speeches, he expressed his ‘contrite heart’ for not meeting all the demands of the people,” Rah said. “He has also called on people to ‘tighten their belts for the sake of the revolution,’ suggesting that food shortages are on the horizon.”

Biting the hand that feeds

But provocations towards countries that have in the past provided life-saving food aid continue.

Given that Kim’s regime fired a ICBM this weekend and has threatened to launch nuclear attacks against the US mainland and to turn South Korea into a “sea of fire,” it is unlikely that the primary aid donors of the past will hurry to assist Pyongyang again this time.

In the mid-1990s, South Korea, China, the US, Japan and the European Union all provided food to the North Korean people, with shipments peaking in 2001 at 1.5 million tons. Nevertheless, it is estimated that 3 million North Koreans starved to death.

According to a statement from the Russian embassy in Pyongyang, in mid-July, Russia delivered around 5,200 tons of flour to North Korea via the World Food Program.  The aid was unloaded at the port of Chongjin before being sent to be processed into cookies “for the needy.”

Moscow already donated nearly 5,000 tons of flour earlier in the year and an additional 2,700 tons is expected to be delivered in the coming weeks.

The total figure, however, is a fraction of what is needed and very few other countries are showing any indications of providing assistance to a regime that prefers to develop weapons of mass destruction instead of feeding its own people.

Kim lives comfortably

Critics point out, for example, that as well as spending heavily on weapons, the Kim family and the “elite” of his entourage live very comfortably, despite sanctions.

The country has traditionally been funded by the overseas sale of synthetic narcotics, fake currency, hacking attacks against foreign financial institutions and the export of cheap laborers.

Other revenue comes from the sale of coal and minerals, although those sources of income have been dramatically curtailed by international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

The North’s missile technology has also been purchased by other nations, including Iran, and the Bank of Korea estimated in its last statement on Pyongyang’s economic situation that the gross domestic product grew by 3.9 percent last year, the fastest growth since 1999.

Watch video01:46

UN warns that 20 million face starvation

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