NEW YORK – The UN Security Council on Monday unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea, slapping a ban on textile exports and restricting shipments of oil products to punish Pyongyang for its sixth and largest nuclear test.
With backing from China and Russia, the council voted 15-0 to back the US-drafted sanctions resolution just one month after banning exports of coal, lead and seafood in response to North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The resolution capped tough negotiations during which the United States dropped initial demands for a full oil embargo and a freeze on the foreign assets of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in a bid to win support from China and Russia.
The resolution bans textile exports, cuts off natural gas shipments to North Korea, places a ceiling on deliveries of refined oil products and caps crude oil shipments at their current level.
It bars countries from issuing new work permits to North Korean laborers sent abroad and seeks to phase out the practice by asking countries to report on the date for ending existing contracts.
Some 93,000 North Koreans work abroad, providing Kim’s regime with a source of revenue to develop its missile and nuclear programs, according to a US official familiar with the negotiations.
Under the measure, countries are authorized to inspect ships suspected of carrying banned North Korean cargo but must first seek the consent of the flag-state.
An initial draft authorized the use of force to board those vessels, but that was dropped in negotiations over the weekend.
The United States and its allies argue that tougher sanctions will pile pressure on Kim’s regime to come to the negotiation table to discuss an end to its nuclear and missile tests.
It was the eighth series of sanctions imposed on North Korea since it first tested a nuclear device in 2006.
Cut in oil products
The resolution limits deliveries of refined oil products to 500,000 barrels for three months from October 1 and to two million barrels from January 1 for a period of 12 months.
That would amount to a 10 percent cut in oil products, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), which estimates annual exports to North Korea at nearly 2.2 million barrels.
North Korea imports mostly gasoline and diesel fuel from China vital to the country’s agriculture, transportation and military sectors, according to the EIA.
China, North Korea’s sole ally and main trading partner, had strongly objected to an oil embargo initially sought by the United States out of fear that it would bring the North’s economy to its knees.
Some four million barrels per year of crude oil will continue to flow from China through a pipeline, but the resolution would cap those deliveries at the current level, according to the US official.
The US official said the ban on textile exports would deprive North Korea of some $726 million (RM3.478 billion) in annual revenue.
To further address Russian and Chinese concerns, the resolution expressed support for dialogue and highlights the need to “ensure lasting stability in northeast Asia” and “to resolve the situation through peaceful, diplomatic and political means.”
Russia and China are pushing for talks with North Korea, but their proposal for a freeze on Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear tests in exchange for suspending US-South Korean military drills has been rejected by the United States.
Washington has said military action remains an option in dealing with North Korea and threatened to cut economic ties with countries that continue to trade with the it — around 90 percent of the North’s external commerce is with China.
‘Pay the price’
Early Monday, North Korea said it would not accept any chastisement over its nuclear and missile program, which it says is vital to stave off the threat of an American invasion.
If Washington does “rig up the illegal and unlawful ‘resolution’ on harsher sanctions, the DPRK shall make absolutely sure that the US pays due price,” its foreign ministry said, in a statement published by the official KCNA news agency.
“The forthcoming measures to be taken by the DPRK will cause the US the greatest pain and suffering it had ever gone through in its entire history.”
Pyongyang has staged a series of missile tests in recent months, culminating in an intercontinental ballistic missile that appeared to bring much of the US mainland into range.
It followed up with a sixth nuclear test on September 3, its largest to date, which North Korea said was a hydrogen bomb small enough to fit onto a missile. -AFP