UN sanctions unlikely to bring North Korea to heel: Analysts

SEOUL (AFP) - The latest sanctions against North Korea will have little impact on its nuclear and missile programme, despite the added clout of China's support for the UN measures, analysts said today.

"The sanctions themselves amount to little more than a slap on the wrist," said Kim Yong Hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.

"But the North is likely to be upset at China yielding to pressure from other members of the UN Security Council and accepting the resolution," Kim said.

The action announced by the UN Security Council on Tuesday was a clear compromise that expanded the list of North Korean entities on the UN's sanctions list, but stopped short of imposing any tough new penalties.

It followed weeks of intense negotiations between the United States, which wanted a strong response to the North's long-range rocket launch last month, and China which sought to shield its ally from any harsh measures.

The resolution added North Korea's space agency, a bank, four trading companies and four individuals to the UN list of entities subject to an assets freeze and travel ban.

The US-proposed resolution was adopted unanimously by the 15-nation council and included a threat of "significant action" should Pyongyang stage a nuclear test in the future.

As North Korea's sole major ally and economic lifeline, China is seen as the only country with any genuine leverage over the impoverished, isolated and nuclear-armed state.

At the same time, Pyongyang has played on Chinese fears of the consequences of North Korea's collapse to defy Beijing's efforts to rein in its nuclear weapons programme.

Most analysts agreed with Kim that the real import of Tuesday's sanctions announcement lay in Beijing's backing, rather than the actual measures themselves.

"Any kind of Chinese move is important," said Robert Kelly, professor of Political Science and Diplomacy at Pusan National University.

"North Korea would collapse without Chinese support. So when China backs sanctions, even if they aren't that tough, it's significant," Kelly said.