UN Security Council poised to punish North Korea
Economic sanctions are designed to send a strong message without prompting a belligerent backlash.
With China and Russia saying Wednesday they are on board, the United Nations Security Council is poised to adopt punishing economic sanctions against North Korea for its recent nuclear explosion and missile launches.Skip to next paragraph
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The new resolution, the result of two weeks of diplomatic haggling among the countries most affected by North Korea's stepped-up belligerence, is not as strong as the measures the United States originally sought.
But key components including a ban on the North's lucrative arms sales and a measure urging countries to inspect North Korean transport vessels suspected of transporting banned products – like parts for missiles or nuclear materials – led US officials to express satisfaction with the outcome.
"This sanction regime, if passed by the Security Council, will bite, and bite in a meaningful way," said US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice Wednesday morning following a meeting where the draft was circulated among the council's 15 member states. Council members will seek guidance from home capitals on a resolution vote that could come as early as Friday, one UN official said.
Adoption of the resolution does not appear to be in doubt, since all five permanent and veto-wielding members of the council expressed support.
Most significantly, China – North Korea's closest ally on the council – called for a "yes" vote, and Russia came around after language it considered too strong in the original draft was modified. But unanimity may still prove elusive, since rotating members Libya and Vietnam are thought to have reservations.
The most controversial measures appear to be the provision urging inspections of North Korean cargo and the outright ban on arms sales.
The original draft, authored by the US, called for requiring countries to inspect air and sea shipments suspected of containing banned materials. But Russian misgivings in particular led to a "watering down" of the measure urging inspections, said a UN official with knowledge of the resolution debate but not authorized to comment publicly on council affairs.
Among other measures, the resolution freezes the assets of additional North Korean companies and seeks to cut off financial assistance to the country "except for humanitarian and development purposes directly addressing the needs of the civilian population." The draft resolution also calls for countries to deny refueling any ships suspected of carrying banned cargo.