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Tension continues as UN passes new sanctions on North Korea

11 September 2017 10:46 PM
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Tension continues as UN passes new sanctions on North Korea

With backing from China and Russia, the council voted 15-0 to slap a ban on textile exports and restrict shipments of oil products to North Korea.

A US official familiar with negotiations said the Trump administration expected unanimous approval of the resolution.

Japan’s UN ambassador, Koro Bessho, said: “I think everyone’s concerns have been satisfied, including ours.”

The draft resolution, agreed to late Sunday after final negotiations between the US and China, the North’s ally and main trading partner, also eliminated a US proposal to authorise the use of force to board and inspect nine named ships that Washington said violated previous UN sanctions resolutions.

The resolution voted on represented a swift response to the recent nuclear test explosion by North Korea, which has said was a hydrogen bomb, and to Pyongyang’s escalating launches of increasingly sophisticated ballistic missiles that it says can reach the United States.

But the provisions were a significant climb-down from the toughest-ever sanctions that the Trump administration proposed in the initial draft resolution it circulated last Tuesday, especially on oil. A complete ban on oil sales could have crippled North Korea’s economy.

The revised resolution would ban North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates.

And it would cap Pyongyang’s imports of refined petroleum products at 2 million barrels a year and crude oil at the level of the last 12 months.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, China supplies most of North Korea’s crude oil imports, which the U.S. official put at 4 million barrels a year. The agency cited UN customs data showing China reported sending 6,000 barrels a day of oil products to North Korea, which it said is mostly gasoline and diesel fuel vital to the North’s agriculture, transportation and military sectors.

That would mean North Korea imports nearly 2.2 million barrels a year in petroleum products, so the 2 million- barrel cap in the resolution would represent a 10 per cent cut. But the US official said North Korea now receives about 4.5 million barrels of refined petroleum products, which would mean a more than 50 per cent cut.

The final draft bans all textile exports by North Korea and prohibit all countries from authorising new work permits for North Korean workers — two key sources of hard currency.

It would prohibit all new and existing joint ventures and cooperative arrangements, with some exceptions approved by the UN. Textiles are North Korea’s main source of export revenue after coal, iron, seafood and other minerals that have already been severely restricted by previous UN resolutions.

North Korean textile exports in 2016 totalled $752.5 million, accounting for about one-fourth of its total $3 billion in merchandise exports, according to South Korean government figures.

The US official, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of the council vote, said the Trump administration believed the new sanctions combined with previous measures would ban over 90 per cent of North Korea’s exports reported in 2016. As for North Koreans working overseas, the official said the US expects the cut-off on new work permits to cost North Korea about $500 million a year once current work permits expire. The US estimates about 93,000 North Koreans are currently working abroad, the official said.

The United States faces the ‘greatest pain and suffering’ in its history if the UN approves harsh sanctions on North Korea, the country warned last night.

Kim Jong-un’s foreign ministry said it would ‘make absolutely sure that the US pays due price’ if measures restricting its oil supply and textiles exports were passed.

It is the latest in an escalating war of words after it emerged North Korea had carried out its sixth and biggest nuclear test a week ago.

The US-drafted resolution had reportedly been watered down on Sunday in the hope of winning support from China and Russia.

All five of the UN Security Council’s permanent members, which also include France and the UK, must unanimously back the resolution for it to come into force.

A North Korea spokesman accused the US of ‘going frantic’ in manipulating the Security Council over its ‘legitimate’ nuclear test, adding: ‘In case the US eventually does rig up the illegal and unlawful “resolution” on harsher sanctions, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) shall make absolutely sure that the US pays due price.

‘The forthcoming measures to be taken by the DPRK will cause the US the greatest pain and suffering it has ever gone through in its entire history.’ Last week, Pyongyang drew international criticism after claiming it tested a hydrogen bomb that could go on an intercontinental missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

The permanent members had agreed that North Korea should face tougher sanctions, but differences have since opened up between them. China is unlikely to back firm action that could see its historic ally toppled, while Russia is opposed to an oil embargo. The latest resolution would cap the North’s imports of refined petroleum products and crude oil, while still banning textile exports.


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