US blocks IOC request for sports equipment to North Korea

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


The United States has blocked a request from the International Olympic Committee to allow sports equipment to be sent to North Korea to help athletes prepare for the Olympics, diplomats said Thursday.

IOC president Thomas Bach asked a UN sanctions committee on July 3 to allow deliveries of sports equipment "in order to assist the DPRK athletes to prepare for, qualify and effectively participate at the Olympic Games," according to a letter from the committee chair seen by AFP.

"The United States objects to this proposed transfer," the US mission to the United Nations told Security Council members in a brief response sent Wednesday.

North Korea has come under strict United Nations sanctions over its missile and nuclear programs, barring exports of raw commodities and severely restricting oil deliveries.

North Korea is also banned from importing luxury goods under UN resolutions that may apply to sports equipment.

Following a meeting with the Security Council in New York on Friday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for continued full enforcement of sanctions against North Korea.

Pompeo argued that only maximum pressure will push North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to follow through on his promise, made at the June Singapore summit with President Donald Trump, to work toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley stressed the council "can't do one thing" until North Korea takes steps toward scrapping its nuclear and missile programs.

The United States this month asked the sanctions committee to declare a halt to deliveries of oil products to North Korea after accusing Pyongyang of exceeding a cap on fuel shipments with illegal imports.

Russia and China, however, stepped in and requested more information on the request, putting a six-month hold on the US proposal.

China and Russia have argued that North Korea should be rewarded with the prospect of eased sanctions for opening up dialogue with the United States and halting missile tests.

In February, North Korea sent athletes to take part in the Pyeongchang winter Olympic games in South Korea in a step seen as easing tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Tokyo will host the 2020 summer Olympic Games, while the 2022 winter games are to take place in Beijing.