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UN to vote on new sanctions against North

Dec 23,2017
The United Nations Security Council was expected to vote on a U.S.-drafted resolution that seeks to tighten sanctions and cap refined petroleum products and crude oil supplies to North Korea on Friday in New York, according to multiple diplomatic sources.

A draft of the resolution that was circulated among the 15-member council Thursday ahead of a vote seeks to ban nearly 90 percent of refined petroleum products exported to North Korea by capping them at 500,000 barrels a year, reported Reuters.

The draft also calls on a cap on crude oil supplies to North Korea at the current level of 4 million barrels a year.

The latest sanctions resolution was drafted in response to North Korea’s launch of its new Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Nov. 29, and seeks to further close loopholes to cut off any sources of financing of the regime’s weapons of mass destruction program.

It further demands the repatriation of North Korean laborers working overseas within 12 months, whose wages are seen to help finance the cash-strapped regime’s nuclear and missile programs.

The United States has been pressuring China to cap oil supplies to the North, as its main supplier, though the draft stops short of a total oil embargo as it has been demanding. In a phone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the end of last month, U.S. President Donald Trump called on China to cut off its oil supply to North Korea.

Beijing and Washington are seen to have reached an understanding on the draft ahead of circulating the text among other members of the council, as is the general custom for North Korea sanctions resolutions.

While negotiations can happen until the final moment that the draft is voted upon, diplomatic sources have indicated that veto-wielding member China will likely vote for this latest resolution.

The draft, according to Reuters, also seeks to expand items exported out of North Korea, ranging from food products, machinery and electrical equipment to earth and stone. It also would ban countries from selling and transferring industrial equipment, machinery, transportation vehicles and industrial metals to North Korea.

The latest resolution also seeks to expand the blacklist of individuals and entities that are seen to be linked to the North’s weapons of mass destruction program, including foreign bank representatives who will be subject to travel bans, and an assets freeze.

According to AP, the proposed resolution cracks down on North Korea’s illegal export of coal, petroleum and other prohibited items through illegal maritime practices, such as ship-to-ship transfers.

The draft authorizes all countries to seize, inspect and impound any ship in its ports or territorial waters suspected of being involved in these illegal activities, it also reported.

If adopted, this would mark the 10th sanctions resolution adopted by the Security Council over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs since UNSC Resolution 1718 passed in 2006. Three resolutions were adopted just this year: Resolution 2356 in June, 2371 in August and another in September.

UNSC Resolution 2375, passed on Sept. 11 in swift response to the North’s sixth nuclear test earlier that month, introduced a cap on the supply, sales or transfer of crude oil to North Korea to the level of the past 12 months, some 4 million barrels, and limited exports of refined petroleum products to the country to 2 million barrels a year. It also banned the sale of condensates and natural gas liquids to the North, the hiring of North Korean overseas workers and Pyongyang’s textile exports.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week addressed the Security Council, calling on Moscow and Beijing to increase pressure on Pyongyang, especially pointing to the North Korean laborers working in “slave-like conditions” in Russia and China’s supply of crude oil to the regime.

In a speech at a conference in Pyongyang Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said his country has “rapidly emerged as a strategic state capable of posing a substantial nuclear threat” to the United States, despite such sanctions, reported the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) Friday.

Kim noted that North Korea “successfully realized the historic cause of completing the state nuclear force” despite “short supply in everything.”

He said that the “rapid development of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear force is now exerting big influence on the world political structure and strategic environment,” adding that it comes “despite the harsh sanctions and pressure threatening the existence of the state and its people.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]