A new UN Security Council resolution drafted by the US aims to ban North Korean trade in coal, iron, lead and seafood. There was reportedly “high confidence” among that the resolution would be backed by Russia and China.
The UN Security Council is due to vote on Saturday over whether to toughen sanctions against North Korea, depriving the reclusive state of around $1 billion (850 million euro) in export revenue.
The draft resolution, which was circulated to the 15-member Security Council on Friday, would also halt countries from increasing the number of North Korean laborers working abroad, ban any new joint business ventures with the North Korean regime and ban fresh investment into such existing ventures.
Finally, the North’s Foreign Trade Bank, the country’s main clearing house, would be added to the UN’s sanctions blacklist.
Egypt, which currently holds the Security Council’s rotating presidency, confirmed that a vote on the draft resolution was scheduled for 3 pm local time in New York City (1900 UTC).
According to a council diplomat speaking to major news agencies on condition of anonymity, the US has been negotiating the proposed measures with China, Pyongyang’s principal ally and trading partner, since the North launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICMB) test on July 4.
However, those talks have gained in urgency over the past week, after a second ICBM test raised fears that Pyongyang could soon possess missiles capable of reaching the US mainland.
“These are export sectors where this money is viewed as a critical, critical source of hard currency that the North immediately turns around into its fantastically expensive war machine and these just amazingly expensive ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs,” the diplomatic source said.
The resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes from the council’s permanent members – the US, China, Russia, France and Britain – to be adopted.
Crucially, the draft text stopped short of curbing oil imports into North Korea, which would likely have dealt a massive blow to the country’s already cash-starved economy. Such a move would have faced a probable veto from China and Russia, who have vowed to not to support any measures that risk worsening North Korea’s humanitarian crisis.
Chinese and Russian backing essential
The diplomatic source said there was “high confidence” that China and Russia would be on board with the latest series of sanctions, which would make it the seventh sanctions resolution passed since North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006.
However, Russia has rejected assessments that Pyongyang’s latest tests saw the launch of long-range ICBMs, arguing that the missiles were medium-range. That, coupled with worsening relations between Moscow and Washington, could see negotiations over North Korean sanctions hampered.
However, the fact that the proposal is expected to be voted on Saturday indicates that negotiations between the US and China have gone well, despite US President Donald Trump criticizing Beijing for not having done more to rein in North Korea.
When it comes to new sanctions being imposed on North Korea, both sides generally come to an agreement first before involving other Security Council members.
Nevertheless, differing views remain on how to handle North Korea’s military threat. The US, along with its European allies, as well as Japan and South Korea, maintain that increased sanctions are needed to force Pyongyang to halt its weapons program.
China and Russia, meanwhile, insist that talks are necessary, and sanctions alone will do nothing to alter North Korea’s behavior.
dm/gsw (afp, Reuters, AP)