UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - After months in limbo due to Chinese objections, a U.N. report suggesting North Korea may have supplied Syria, Iran and Myanmar with banned nuclear technology is heading to the Security Council.
The latest report by the so-called Panel of Experts on Pyongyang’s compliance with U.N. sanctions was delivered to the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee in May.
Normally such a report would be reviewed and passed to the council for consideration of possible action. But the report on North Korea did not move for nearly six months due to Chinese objections and its fate was unclear until Friday, council diplomats told Reuters on Monday.
The North Korea report should be published on the sanction committee’s website as early as Tuesday, they said.
The attempt to prevent the report’s transfer to the Security Council and release to the public, envoys said, was emblematic of China’s increasingly self-confident approach to international diplomacy as it seeks to protect states like North Korea and Sudan to which it has close ties.
Reuters reported in May that the report said there was reason to suspect North Korea — under U.N. sanctions for testing nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009 — has become a proliferator of banned technology.
The 75-page document, obtained by Reuters, said the panel was concerned about reports of “continuing DPRK (North Korea) involvement in nuclear and ballistic missile related activities in certain countries including Iran, Syria and Myanmar.”
Last week, China chose to keep silent when the sanctions committee asked its members — the 15 nations on the Security Council — if they had any objections to the report. That allowed it to formally move to the council.
“China has suddenly decided to allow this very damning report to go to the Security Council,” one diplomat said on condition of anonymity. “I think Syria and Myanmar were happy the Chinese were blocking it. Now China has other priorities.”
But China is unlikely to allow the report to be used for further sanctions against Pyongyang, envoys said.
China’s other priorities, diplomats said, include blocking a similar report by another U.N. panel of experts on compliance with an arms embargo for Sudan’s conflict-torn western Darfur region. That report, unlike the one on North Korea, directly implicates China by raising concerns that Chinese firms may have been violating the Darfur arms embargo.
The Sudan report has infuriated China, which for weeks has prevented the Sudan sanctions committee from passing it to the Security Council to consider the panel’s recommendations.
Sanctions committees work on the basis of consensus, which means each member has a virtual veto.
In its report, the Sudan expert panel said Chinese bullets were found at the site of attacks against U.N.-African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, although it did not suggest the government was in any way responsible.
It is unclear when and if the Sudan report will be published.
Diplomats said they had feared China was trying to put the brakes on activities of all Security Council sanctions committees overseeing compliance with U.N. measures imposed on states China is friendly with, like Sudan and Iran.
“Maybe China has decided not to block all sanctions reports and they’ve got to have some give and take,” a diplomat said.
While China has allowed the council to impose sanctions on Iran and North Korea, it has refused to expand the 2005 arms embargo in Sudan and joined Russia in vetoing a 2008 attempt by Britain and the United States to sanction Zimbabwe’s leaders.
It has also blocked all attempts to sanction Myanmar, a country the United States and Britain have suggested deserves to be sanctioned for human rights abuses.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Myanmar’s first election in 20 years on Sunday was “insufficiently inclusive, participatory and transparent.”
Editing by John O'Callaghan