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Expert: Moscow concerned with how North Korea sanctions may affect business cooperation

March 04, 2016, 8:51 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Russia-North Korea Pobeda project envisages modernization of the North Korean railways in exchange for access to that country’s natural resources

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MOSCOW, March 3 /TASS/. New restrictive measures against North Korea may play a positive role if the six-way talks renew but sanctions alone are unlikely to resolve the Korean peninsula’s nuclear problem, a Russian expert on Korean studies said.

"The experience of settlement of Iran’s nuclear program showed that just another resolution could hardly resolve the existing problems," Alexander Zhebin, director of the Korean research center of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Far Eastern Studies, told TASS.

"Pyongyang needs a detailed package of concrete incentives and encouragements, including step-by-step sanctions relief, in response to each step the DPRK [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] will make towards denuclearization. Nothing is known about this package yet," the Russian expert added.

Zhebin said the new UN resolution on tougher sanctions on North Korea was imperative and demanded the North Korean side’s unconditional capitulation. He did not rule out that the resolution could further aggravate the situation in the Korean peninsula because it totally ignored the DPRK’s security concerns.

According to Zhebin, despite all assertions that the new restrictions will have no negative humanitarian consequences for the civilian population, the resolution de facto blocks the DPRK’s foreign trade operations and its access to the system of international settlements, which the country will find extremely hard to make.

"The criteria, which should determine if the revenues from North Korean sales of coal and iron ore are spent on missile and nuclear programs or for peaceful purposes, are rather fragile. Besides, they are opening up new opportunities for interference in the DPRK’s trade and economic relations with other countries," the expert explained.

The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday unanimously passed resolution 2270 on tougher sanctions against North Korea in retaliation for Pyongyang’s tests of nuclear weapons and the use of a ballistic missile to launch a satellite. The resolution, agreed by Russia, the United States and China, imposes serious restrictions - up to a total ban - on importing coal, iron ore, titanium, vanadium and other precious metals from the DPRK and an embargo on delivery of aviation and rocket fuel to the country. The U.N. Security Council resolution envisages the imposition of sanctions against the North Korean banking sector and targeted sanctions against a number of individuals and organizations linked to the North Korean nuclear and missile programs.

Russia’s main concern in this connection is to understand how the new restrictive measures are going to affect its plans of cooperation with the DPRK.

"Our countries have developed a mechanism for implementing a draft project of modernization of the North Korean railways [the Pobeda project]," the expert said. The $25-billion project envisages implementation of works in exchange for access to that country’s [North Korea] natural resources. The sides planned to apply the same principle of settlements to other projects. Does it mean that this area of cooperation is closing for us?" Zhebin asked.

The UN Security Council resolution obliges countries to mandatory check all cargoes bound for and transported from North Korea for the banned goods and technologies. Such inspections, according to Zhebin, are going to be costly and will require considerable expenses.

The Russian expert believes that an embargo on any conventional arms, including light small arms, will only encourage the DPRK to speed up work on its nuclear and missile programs. "The balance of conventional forces in the Korean peninsula has been changing in favor of the United States and South Korea over the past twenty years, and the North Koreans had to respond to that situation," Zhebin explained.

The sanctions, the expert said, ban the DPRK from any kind of space exploration. "Pyongyang believes that it falls completely out of line with the 1967 treaty, which regulates the activities of states in this sphere. It is universal and open to participation of any country," Zhebin concluded.

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