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UN set for vote on North Korea sanctions


Added 12th September 2017 06:02 AM

Washington has led the international drive to punish the rogue state after it detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear device.

UN set for vote on North Korea sanctions

Washington has led the international drive to punish the rogue state after it detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear device.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un attending a meeting with a committee of the Workers' Party of Korea about the test of a hydrogen bomb, at an unknown location on September 3, 2017. AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS

The UN Security Council votes Monday on imposing new sanctions on North Korea after the United States softened its demands for tougher measures in a bid to win support from Russia and China.

Washington has led the international drive to punish the rogue state after it detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear device.

In a revised draft resolution circulated late Sunday, the United States dropped its initial demand for a full oil embargo as well as a freeze on the foreign assets of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

The latest proposed resolution seen by AFP would slap an embargo on natural gas exports to North Korea, place a ceiling on deliveries of refined oil products and cap crude oil shipments at their current level.

The revised text would ban textile exports from North Korea, but it scrapped demands for a full halt to payments of North Korean laborers working abroad. Both are sources of hard currency for Kim's regime. 

Countries that have provided work permits for North Koreans would report to the United Nations on the number of guest workers they have employed and the date for ending those contracts.

Among other concessions, the new text also removes authorization to use force to inspect ships suspected of carrying North Korean cargo and drops a proposed assets freeze on the state-owned Air Koryo airline.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft described the revised draft as "very robust" and suggested that the changes were aimed at averting a possible veto from Russia or China.

"There is a significant prize in keeping the whole of the Security Council united," Rycroft told reporters.

The vote at the Security Council will be held at 6:00 pm (2200 GMT).

Cut in oil products

The draft resolution would limit deliveries of refined oil products to 500,000 barrels for three months from October 1 and 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 which are vital to the country's agriculture, transportation and military sectors, according to the EIA.

China, North Korea's sole ally and main trading partner, has strongly objected to an oil embargo out of fear that it would bring the North's economy to its knees.

To further address Russian and Chinese concerns, the latest draft expresses 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.

Britain and France -- permanent veto-wielding Security Council members along with the US, China and Russia -- have given Washington their strong backing.

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.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that Beijing "approves further reactions and necessary measures by the UN Security Council" in response to the nuclear test.

He declined to be drawn on whether China was behind the weakening of the draft, saying it hoped the decision would be made "on the basis of full consultation and consensus."

'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 -- ramping up tensions and earning itself a seventh set of UN Security Council sanctions.

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.

The council last month adopted a sanctions resolution imposing a full ban on exports of coal, seafood from North Korea after it carried out an ICBM test.

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