United Nations — Russia and China proposed to the United Nations Security Council that it ease some economic sanctions against North Korea, according to a draft U.N. resolution obtained by CBS News on Monday. This comes despite the fact that North Korea "is threatening to conduct an escalated provocation, refusing to meet to discuss denuclearization and continuing to maintain and advance its prohibited weapons of mass destruction and ," a State Department official told CBS News.
"Now is not the time for the U.N. Security Council to consider offering premature sanctions relief," the official said.
Although the Trump administration has sent its top North Korea envoy to call for Kim Jong Un's government to return to negotiations to diffuse the current threats and an end of year deadline imposed by North Korea for diplomatic efforts, the State Department made clear Monday that it is not ready to agree to lifting sanctions.
- It would lift the prohibition on North Koreans working overseas and end the deadline for countries to send those workers back to North Korea.
- It would allow some North Korea exports and imports that have been sanctioned, including seafood, textiles, bulldozers, tractors of certain engine power and fire-fighting vehicles, among others.
- It would allow a proposed inter-Korean rail and road project to move forward.
- Items that relate to "infrastructure construction" and humanitarian" aid would now be exempted from sanctions because, according to the resolution, they are products and machines that "cannot be diverted" to the North's "nuclear and ballistic missile programs."
Although, earning billions of dollars using cyberattacks and subterfuge, a U.N. resolution that would ease sanctions is seen as a way to get North Korea back to denuclearization talks.
Kelly Craft, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., last week underscored the concerns of the Security Council: "Each of us are very, very concerned about the series of 13 missile attacks, the ballistic missile launches. That is something that we all agree upon and we are very focused upon."
On Monday, the State Department official said that the U.S. remains committed to diplomacy, saying, "President Trump remains committed to making progress toward the Singapore Summit commitments of transformed relations, building lasting peace, and complete denuclearization."
The proposed resolution comes at a time of increasing tension between Pyongyang and the U.S.
North Korea's ambassador to the U.N. Kim Song said earlier this month thatin negotiations with the U.S., despite between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump.
"We'd like to have continued negotiations," national security adviser Robert O'Brienjust hours after North Korea said it had conducted a " " at a satellite-launch facility.
The Trump-appointed special representative for North Korea, Steve Biegun, is in the region, attempting to get talks back on track.
A former U.S. intelligence officer with long experience dealing with North Korea told CBS News, "Pyongyang has control of things at the moment. If Kim wants to avoid a crisis, he could accept virtually anything Biegun is bringing. If he wants to plunge ahead figuring they can get through whatever the international community throws at them, he'll reject whatever Biegun brings."
The State Department wants to move forward with talks, but not be pressed by Russia and China. "The United States cannot do this alone. Members of the U.N. Security Council have spoken in unison that the DPRK must avoid provocations, abide by its obligations under U.N. Security Council Resolutions, and engage in sustained and substantive negotiations to achieve complete denuclearization," the State Department official told CBS News, referring to the formal name for North Korea.
China's Ambassador Zhang Jun spoke to reporters after a negotiation at U.N. headquarters on Tuesday afternoon with members of the Security Council on the draft resolution and made the case for the China-Russia proposal.
Zhang said that he hopes the proposals will be supported by other members of the Council, based on the provisions in the resolution to alleviate dire humanitarian conditions in North Korea and in order to diffuse a possible confrontation.
"You cannot simply expect one party to do more things and with the other party sitting there idle," he said. "We need both parties to walk toward each other so as to build up mutual trust."
After the last U.N. Security Council meeting in North Korea on December 11, U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said, "Until recently, North Korea in fact delivered on its promises to freeze, hold its tests. But we cannot expect it to continue doing this indefinitely given the absence of any moves in response. Negotiations is a two-way street. That should be understood."
Richard Gowan, U.N. Director at the International Crisis Group, told CBS News, "The U.S. has been wary of putting pressure" on North Korea at the U.N. this year, "while the European have been more hawkish," insisting on keeping sanctions in place.
The Russia-China draft resolution applauds the U.S. effort at diplomacy, and "welcomes the continuation of the dialogue" between the U.S. and North Korea at all levels. A Security Council diplomat said that the timing of any vote is not yet set, that negotiations on it would "begin in earnest" on Tuesday.