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UN sanctions panel nixes IOC request to exempt sports equipment

NEW YORK (Kyodo) -- A request to allow sports equipment into North Korea that was recently proposed by the International Olympic Committee has been officially blocked by a U.N. sanctions committee, a diplomat confirmed Wednesday.

In July, the IOC submitted a request to the North Korea sanctions committee to allow equipment into the isolated country so athletes could prepare and qualify for upcoming Olympic Games.

Under previously imposed sanction resolutions, restrictions are in place on North Korea with such equipment being considered luxury items.

The 15-member committee must unanimously decide to allow any such exemptions. While the request was certain to be denied given objections raised by the United States last week, it took five days to make it official procedurally.

Karen Pierce, Britain's ambassador to the United Nations, who is the rotating president for the month, told reporters that pressure on Pyongyang must be maintained until progress on denuclearization is realized.

"I think the majority of views in the council are that pressure needs to continue until there are concrete steps on denuclearization and when we say denuclearization we mean complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization," she said.

The committee decision follows a recent visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo along with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha, who on July 20 met with the 15-member Security Council and Japan.

In New York, Pompeo reiterated the message of fully enforcing economic sanctions on North Korea amid slow progress in negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

"The countries of the Security Council are united on the need for final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea," the chief U.S. diplomat told reporters after his briefing on the North Korea situation.

"Strict enforcement of sanctions is critical to our achieving this goal," Pompeo said.

Just the day before, Russia and China had called for putting a hold on a U.S. request to halt deliveries of refined oil products after Pyongyang was accused of breaching a U.N. sanctions cap on such products.

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