US unveils tougher new UN sanctions on North Korea, vote due Saturday

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley at the UN headquarters in New York.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley at the UN headquarters in New York.PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - The United States on Friday (Aug 4) presented to the UN Security Council a draft resolution toughening sanctions on North Korea, aiming to deprive Pyongyang of US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) in export revenue, a council diplomat said.

The council is expected to vote on Saturday on the measures that include a ban on exports of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore, as well as seafood by the cash-starved state.

The United States has been negotiating the proposed new measures with China, North Korea’s main trading partner and ally, since Pyongyang launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4.

A second launch on July 28 further raised alarm about Pyongyang’s drive to develop a missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

The ban on exports could deprive the Pyongyang regime of  US$1 billion in annual revenue, roughly a third of its foreign currency earnings, according to a diplomat familiar with the negotiations.

The draft text would also prevent North Korea from sending additional workers abroad, prohibit all new joint ventures and ban new investment in the current joint companies.

The diplomat indicated that China and Russia were prepared to support the draft resolution, which would be the seventh set of UN sanctions imposed on North Korea since it first carried out a nuclear test in 2006.

“We have high confidence that they will be on board with this resolution,” said the diplomat, who briefed reporters on the contents of the draft.


The proposed resolution would add North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank, which manages foreign exchange, to a UN sanctions blacklist that imposes an assets freeze.

It would also tighten trade restrictions on technology to prevent North Korea from acquiring items that could be used for its military programs.

North Korean vessels that are caught violating UN resolutions would be banned from entering ports in all countries, under the proposed measure.

While the draft text would expand sanctions, it stopped short of curbing oil deliveries to North Korea – a move that would have dealt a serious blow to the economy.

Russia, which like China is a veto-wielding council member, had warned that it would not support sanctions that would worsen North Korea’s humanitarian crisis.

The United States and its European allies, as well as Japan and South Korea, have argued that tougher sanctions are needed to force North Korea to halt its military programs.

China and Russia have meanwhile insisted that sanctions alone will not change Pyongyang’s behavior and that talks are needed to address the crisis.

As negotiations at the United Nations entered the final stretch, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that Washington was not seeking regime change in North Korea and was willing to talk to Pyongyang.