North Korea says it is unable to pay U.N. dues, blames sanctions

UNITED NATIONS — North Korea is unable to pay its share of the 2018 U.N. budgets because of international sanctions on its foreign exchange bank and has asked a senior U.N. official for help, the country’s U.N. mission said in a statement.

North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Ja Song Nam met with U.N. management chief Jan Beagle on Friday to ask the world body to help secure a bank transaction channel so Pyongyang could pay the nearly $184,000 it says it owes for 2018.

U.N. member states are required to pay assessed contributions to the world body’s regular and peacekeeping budgets, as well as a budget for international tribunals.

Image: Ja Song Nam Image: Ja Song Nam

North Korea’s Ambassador to the United Nations Ja Song Nam, front, takes part in a ministerial-level U.N. Security Council meeting held at U.N. headquarters in New York on Dec. 15, 2017, to discuss his country’s nuclear and missile issues. Kyodo via AP

U.S. and U.N. sanctions on the Foreign Trade Bank, North Korea’s primary foreign exchange bank, were preventing the country “from honoring its obligation as a U.N. member state by hindering even normal activities such as payment of the U.N. contribution,” the North Korean mission said in a statement late on Friday.

“It also shows how cruel and uncivilized the sanctions are,” it said.

If it is unable to make payment “it is crystal clear” the blame lies with the United States and “its followers,” the statement said.

The United States sanctioned the Foreign Trade Bank in 2013, while the U.N. Security Council blacklisted the bank last August.

Related: Fred Warmbier: North Korea ‘not really participating’ in Winter Olympics

The 15-member U.N. Security Council has unanimously boosted sanctions on North Korea since 2006 in a bid to choke funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

While in South Korea for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told Lester Holt in an exclusive interview on Friday that the U.S. planned to take whatever “action is necessary to defend our homeland.”

“We’re going to continue to put all the pressure to bear economically and diplomatically, while preserving all of our military options to see that that happens,” Pence said.

This latest international challenge for the authoritarian nation comes as its athletes play on a Korean unification team at the Olympics, which North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, attended as part of a 22-member government delegation.

According to the U.N. Charter, countries in arrears in an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for two preceding years can lose their vote in the 193-member U.N. General Assembly. The General Assembly can grant an exception if a country can show that conditions beyond its control contributed to the inability to pay.

The U.N. website said that as of Jan. 28 there 12 countries in arrears of more than two years. Eight of those nations — including Libya, Yemen and Venezuela — have lost their ability to vote in the General Assembly because they have not paid their dues.

Apart from its 2018 dues, North Korea said it is up to date with its payments.