NEW YORK, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Top diplomats of the United States, Russia and China clashed over sanctions against North Korea even as they agreed engagement with Pyongyang and improved U.S.-North Korea relations have been beneficial for the international community.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who chaired the United Nations Security Council meeting on North Korea on Thursday, credited economic sanctions for bringing North Korea to the negotiating table.
"We must not forget what's brought us this far, the historic international pressure campaign that this council has made possible with the sanctions that it imposed," Pompeo said. "Until the final denuclearization of [North Korea] is achieved and fully verified, it is our solemn collective responsibility to fully implement all U.N. Security Council resolutions pertaining to North Korea."
Pompeo also warned sanctions violators and said the United States is monitoring the situation in the high seas.
"The United States has assessed in no uncertain terms the cap of 500,000 barrels has been breached this year. We continue to see illegal imports of additional refined petroleum using ship-to-ship transfers, which are clearly prohibited under the U.N. resolution," the secretary of state said. "U.N. Security Council members [must tell] the captains of these ships, to the owners, and anyone else involved in these transfers, that we are watching them and that they must cease their illicit activity."
Chinese-flagged ships have been seen delivering fuel to North Korean ships at sea, and Russian ports may have been accepting cargo of frozen North Korean seafood in recent months.
The United States has maintained pressure will not ease until final denuclearization of North Korea is achieved, a position that may be at odds with Beijing.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the Security Council while sanctions should remain in place, "pressure is not the end" and that the most "effective way" to make progress on denuclearization is a "parallel" peace mechanism, a reference to mutual de-escalation.
The U.S. decision to suspend large-scale joint military exercises on the Korean Peninsula in 2018 and North Korea's announcement of dismantlement at a missile engine test site and similar plans for Yongbyon builds "basic trust," Wang said.
"The main players are North Korea and the United States," the top Chinese diplomat said, adding the international community should support North Korea's "shift to economic development...as denuclearization moves forward."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow supports engagement between the two Koreas, and suggested the progress in recent months should be met with the eventual removal of sanctions.
Sanctions are a form of punishment that "hinders the development of joint measures...that could sequentially move the process forward," Lavrov said.
The foreign minister said Russia welcomes an agreement between North and South to re-establish an inter-Korea railroad, a major infrastructure project that could connect Russia with South Korea through the North.
"Re-establishing the railroad is a very important step," Lavrov said through an interpreter, as he called repeatedly for the easing of sanctions.
Lavrov also slammed the United States for its decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal "based on bogus pretexts." He added the United Nations must support the deal.
Pompeo, who said on Thursday he had a "very positive meeting" with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, travels to North Korea next month to discuss a second summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.