UN Security Council Tightens Economic Choke-hold on North Korea After Missile Launch
The United Nations Security Council meets to discuss imposing new sanctions on North Korea, in New York, US, December 22, 2017. Image: Reuters
It is the third raft of sanctions imposed on North Korea this year and comes as the United States and North Korea are showing no signs they are willing to engage in talks to end the crisis on the Korean peninsula.
United Nations: The UN Security Council unanimously approved tough new sanctions against North Korea on Friday in response to its latest launch of a ballistic missile that Pyongyang says is capable of reaching anywhere on the US mainland.
The resolution adopted by the council includes sharply lower limits on North Korea's refined oil imports, the return home of all North Koreans working overseas within 24 months, and a crackdown on ships smuggling banned items including coal and oil to and from the country.
But the resolution doesn't include even harsher measures sought by the Trump administration that would ban all oil imports and freeze international assets of the government and its leader, Kim Jong-Un.
The resolution, drafted by the United States and negotiated with the North's closest ally China, drew criticism from Russia for the short time the 13 other council nations had to consider the draft, and last-minute changes to the text.
Two of those changes were extending the deadline for North Korean workers to return home from 12 months to 24 months — which Russia said was the minimum needed — and reducing the number of North Koreans being put on the UN sanctions blacklist from 19 to 15.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley said after the vote that "the unity this council has shown in leveling these unprecedented sanctions is a reflection of the international outrage at the Kim regime's actions."
The Security Council has stood united for the 10th time "against a North Korean regime that rejects the pursuit of peace," she said.
President Donald Trump tweeted the 15-0 vote, adding: "The World wants Peace, not Death!"
China's deputy U.N. ambassador, Wu Haitao, said it's "imperative" to pursue a peaceful settlement and resume dialogue and negotiations at an early date, warning that resorting to force "will only lead to disastrous consequences."
Deputy Russian Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov also demanded that key parties display "openness to genuine, meaningful political dialogue." Stressing the importance of "creative approaches," he said that "isolation and pressure must give way to dialogue and talks."
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called for a political solution, "which requires de-escalation and open communication channels now," his spokesman said.
Haley recalled that the previous sanctions resolution approved in September, when combined with earlier measures, would ban over 90 percent of North Korea's exports reported in 2016.
That resolution, adopted in response to North Korea's sixth and strongest nuclear test explosion on Sept. 3, banned North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates. It also banned all textile exports and prohibited any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers — two key sources of hard currency for the northeast Asian nation.
Haley told the council Friday that the new resolution "bans all remaining categories of major North Korean exports — a loss of nearly $250 million in revenue to the regime."
Here are key provisions of the new sanctions:
—The import of refined oil products, including diesel and kerosene that are key to North Korea's economy, is capped at 500,000 barrels a year. That represents a reduction from the 4.5 million barrels North Korea imported in 2016, and a cap of 2 million barrels in September's resolutions. And it means the North's refined oil imports have been cut by 90 percent.
—The import of crude oil is capped at 4 million barrels a year and countries supplying oil are required to provide quarterly reports to the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions on North Korea.
—North Korea is banned from exporting food and agriculture products, machinery, electrical equipment, earth and stones, wood and vessels — and all countries are banned from importing these items.
—All countries are banned from exporting industrial machinery, transportation vehicles, iron, steel and other metals to North Korea.
—All countries must expel North Korean workers and safety monitors by the end of 2019. The resolution expresses concern that earnings from these workers are being used to support the country's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. According to the U.S. Mission, there are nearly 100,000 overseas North Korean workers, with about 50,000 in China and 30,000 in Russia.
—UN member states are authorized to seize, inspect and impound any ship in their ports or territorial waters suspected of being involved in illegal smuggling and evasion of U.N. sanctions. The resolution expresses "great concern" that North Korea is illegally exporting coal and other prohibited items "through deceptive maritime practices and obtaining petroleum illegally through ship-to-ship transfers."
—All countries are banned from providing insurance or re-insurance to North Korean-affiliated ships believed to be involved in illegal smuggling and sanctions evasion and are required to de-register these vessels.
—Fifteen North Koreans, including 13 representing banks overseas, and the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces were added to the U.N. sanctions blacklist. The two others facing a travel ban and asset freeze are Kim Jong Sik, identified as a leading official guiding North Korea's development of weapons of mass destruction, and Ri Pyong Chul, an alternate member of the Political Bureau of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea and first vice director of the Munitions Industry Department.
North Korea's test on November 29 of its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile yet was its 20th launch of a ballistic missile this year, and added to fears that it will soon have a military arsenal that can viably target the U.S. mainland.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the Security Council was sending "a very strong united signal to the North Korean regime that enough is enough — that they must stop their nuclear program and they must stop their intercontinental ballistic missile program."
France's U.N. ambassador, Francois Delattre, said: "We believe maximum pressure today is our best lever to a political and diplomatic solution tomorrow ... (and) our best antidote to the risk of war."
The new resolution reiterates the Security Council's regret at North Korea's "massive diversion of its scarce resources toward its development of nuclear weapons and a number of expensive ballistic missile programs." It notes that 41 percent of the population is undernourished.
The resolution reaffirms the council's support for a resumption of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program aimed at the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
It also reiterates the importance of maintaining peace and stability in northeast Asia and "expresses its commitment to a peace, diplomatic and political solution to the situation ... through dialogue."