NSNEWS ONLINE DESK:The UN security council has unanimously approved tough new sanctions on North Korea in response to its latest launch of a ballistic missile that Pyongyang says is capable of reaching anywhere on the US mainland.
The new sanctions approved in the council resolution include sharply lower limits on North Korea’s oil imports, the return home of all North Koreans working overseas within 24 months, and a crackdown on ships smuggling banned items including coal and oil to and from the country.
But the resolution doesn’t include even harsher measures sought by the Trump administration that would ban all oil imports and freeze international assets of the government and its leader, Kim Jong-un.
The resolution, drafted by the United States and negotiated with China, drew criticism from Russia for the short time the 13 other council countries had to consider the text, and last-minute changes to the text. One of those changes was raising the deadline for North Korean workers to return home from 12 months to 24 months.
The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said after the vote: “The unity this council has shown in leveling these unprecedented sanctions is a reflection of the international outrage at the Kim regime’s actions.”
The resolution caps crude oil imports at 4m barrels a year. It caps imports of refined oil products, including diesel and kerosene, at 500,000 barrels a year. This represents a nearly 90% ban on refined products, which are key to North Korea’s economy, and a reduction from the 2m barrels a year the council authorized in September.
The new sanctions also ban the export of food products, machinery, electrical equipment, earth and stones, wood and vessels from North Korea. And it bans all countries from exporting industrial equipment, machinery, transportation vehicles and industrial metals to the country.
North Korea’s test on 29 November of its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile yet was its 20th launch of a ballistic missile this year, and added to fears that the North will soon have a military arsenal that can viably target the US mainland.
Britain’s UN ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, said the security council was sending “a very strong united signal to the North Korean regime that enough is enough, that they must stop their nuclear program and they must stop their intercontinental ballistic missile program”.
France’s UN ambassador, Francois Delattre, said: “We believe maximum pressure today is our best lever to a political and diplomatic solution tomorrow … (and) our best antidote to the risk of war.”
The previous sanctions resolution was adopted on 11 September in response to North Korea’s sixth and strongest nuclear test explosion, on 3 September.
Haley said at the time that the Trump administration believed those new sanctions, combined with previous measures, would ban over 90% of North Korea’s exports reported in 2016.
Those new sanctions banned North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates. It also banned all textile exports and prohibited any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers – two key sources of hard currency for the north-east Asian country.
The US mission said a cutoff on new work permits would eventually cost North Korea about $500m a year once current work permits expire. The US estimated about 93,000 North Koreans are working abroad, a US official said.
The resolution approved Friday expresses concern that the foreign earnings from these workers are being used to support the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. It requires all countries to send North Korean workers and safety monitors home by the end of 2019.