By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – North Korea postponed talks with the United States on Thursday “because they weren’t ready,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said as she urged Pyongyang to implement a June deal between the two countries.
Speaking to reporters before and after a closed-door U.N. Security Council meeting on North Korea sanctions, Haley said it is now North Korea’s turn to act. She also criticized Russia for trying to lift banking restrictions that are intended to curb the Asian nation’s nuclear program.
“There’s no time to stall or no time to delay or try and get past not going through with what was agreed in Singapore,” said Haley, who will step down at the end of the year.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to work toward denuclearization at their landmark June summit in Singapore. But the agreement was short on specifics and negotiations have made little headway.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had been due to meet North Korean officials in New York on Thursday, but the State Department said on Wednesday it would be postponed to a later date. It gave no reason for the delay.
The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment.
Describing the relationship between Washington and Pyongyang as “cordial,” Haley said she did not think there was a “major issue” and she believed the talks would be rescheduled.
The U.N. Security Council met to discuss sanctions on North Korea on Thursday at the request of Russia. Haley has accused Russia of cheating on U.N. sanctions on North Korea.
After the short meeting, she told reporters Russia is looking to lift banking restrictions, which she said they are not following appropriately.
“We’re concerned about the humanitarian situation in North Korea, but the truth always comes out,” she said. “So now we know what their agenda is, we know exactly why they’re trying to do it and we’re not going to let it happen.”
Russia’s envoy did not speak to reporters after exiting the meeting. The Russian U.N. mission issued a statement later saying North Korea faces “serious humanitarian problems” due to the U.N. sanctions resolutions and urged the Security Council to fix the problem.
“We consider such a situation to be absolutely unacceptable and actually violating the decisions of the council as they should not be directed against the population of the DPRK (North Korea) or the activity of humanitarian agencies,” the Russian mission said.
AID IN LIMBO
Several requests by humanitarian groups for approval to ship aid goods to North Korea have been in limbo for months after the United States repeatedly asked for more time to consider them, an issue some diplomats had planned to raise in Thursday’s meeting, according to documents seen by Reuters.
The U.N. Security Council has unanimously backed sanctions since 2006 to choke off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Aid groups, however, can request exemptions to send humanitarian assistance to the impoverished, isolated Asian state.
Requests are made to the 15-member Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee, which operates by consensus.
China and Russia have said the Security Council should reward Pyongyang for “positive developments” this year. But the United States and other Western powers say sanctions must be enforced until there is full denuclearization.
“We have given a lot of carrots up until now. We’re not going to get rid of the stick because they have not done anything to warrant getting rid of the sanctions yet,” Haley said.
According to committee documents, a September request by a U.S.-based charity and August requests by an Ireland-based aid group and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have yet to be given the green light.
“Our goal is to make sure that we don’t do anything if it’s going to be compromised and not go to the people,” Haley said. “If it can be used in a different way, if we think they’ll use if for another purpose, we are taking our time in vetting that very carefully.”
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert in Washington; editing by Dan Grebler, Diane Craft and Lisa Shumaker)