US officials are pushing back against the UK’s claims it has been unfairly targeted by US sanctions over the North Korean nuclear programme, calling the claims “bogus” and “irresponsible”.
British officials say the US has made the case that its sanctions are targeting Britain because of its involvement in the negotiations on the North’s nuclear programme.
“The UK has repeatedly said that we did not provide technical assistance to North Korea during negotiations with the US on North Korea’s nuclear programmes,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.
“So the UK was never a party to any of these negotiations.”
But British Foreign Office spokeswoman Catherine Austin-Pope said on Friday that Britain was “committed to an approach that ensures the protection of our interests and the protection and security of our citizens”.
“Our Government has long argued that we should not be the first country to sanction countries who support or engage in the North Korea nuclear programme,” she said.
The US, however, has accused Britain of helping North Korea evade sanctions.
The Treasury Department says that since the 1980s, it has imposed sanctions on over 20 individuals and entities in relation to North Korean ballistic missile programmes, including North Korea and China.
“Our country has never been a party or member of any international sanction regime that is targeting North Korea,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
“That is why we do not support or sanction individuals and companies that are providing support or assistance to the North.”
In fact, the United States has already imposed sanctions against a number of entities, including entities owned by Chinese companies, that have been involved in activities related to North’s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes.
“So this is nothing more than a smokescreen to mask the reality that we have sanctions against those who support and support North Korea.”
In a separate development on Friday, the UK government said it was taking a legal action against the US for breaching its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
The UK’s Foreign Office said it had been in regular contact with the United Nations over the issue and had asked for a copy of the convention to be handed over to it.
“We will continue to raise this issue with the relevant parties as we seek an effective response from the United State,” the UK said in the statement.
In the past, Britain has used the Vienna convention to impose sanctions on individuals and businesses linked to North and South Korea’s missile programmes.
Last year, the US agreed to pay £2.4bn in compensation to South Korea after it accused Britain and other countries of failing to comply with sanctions over North Korea.