US, China agree on N. Korea sanctions deal

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - The United States (US) and China have made a deal under which the United Nation (UN) Security Council will expand existing sanctions against North Korea for staging a ballistic missile test, envoys said on Friday.

The deal has been struck after weeks of intense negotiations following the Dec 12 launch which have involved United States (US) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, according to envoys.

China is studying a proposed Security Council resolution which is expected to be quickly sent to all 15 members and could be passed next week, diplomats said.

The US has sought a Security Council resolution with tough new sanctions against the nuclear-armed North for the rocket launch.

But China has sought to shield its ally against new action on top of sanctions ordered after its nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. It wanted only a lower level council statement.

"This is a compromise," said one diplomat with knowledge of the negotiations. "The United States will get a formal resolution and widening use of the existing measures. China can say that it has avoided new sanctions."

"It is just awaiting China's final approval," said another envoy.

Both countries want any resolution passed before South Korea takes over the presidency of the Security Council in February, envoys said.

US and Chinese diplomats made no immediate comment on the negotiations, which were led in New York by US ambassador Susan Rice and her Chinese counterpart Li Baodong.

But the US administration has come under strong pressure from South Korea and Japan to stand firm in insisting on significant action against the North, said one UN diplomat.

"Washington wants a strong message to be sent to Pyongyang so this has involved Secretary Clinton and the Chinese minister," added the diplomat. "It has been conducted at the highest level."

The Security Council agreed on a presidential statement, with lower standing than a binding resolution, after North Korea staged a failed rocket launch in April last year.

The statement called for a tightening of the existing sanctions and warned of new measures if North Korea staged a new rocket launch.

"That warning and fears that North Korea could stage a nuclear test may have spurred China to take this action," said the UN diplomat.

North Korea said the December launch was aimed at placing an earth observation satellite in space. The launch was considered a major boost to the isolated state's young leader Kim Jong-Un.

The US and China want a resolution passed before South Korea takes over the presidency of the Security Council in February, envoys said.