China, US divided on N. Korea sanctions before crucial United Nations vote

Posted September 14, 2017

A USA official, familiar with the council negotiations and speaking on condition of anonymity, said North Korea imports some 4.5 million barrels of refined petroleum products annually and four million barrels of crude oil.

"This will cut deep", U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on the new resolution, pointing out it will hit Pyongyang's ability to fuel and fund its nuclear and missile programs and will reduce by nearly 50 percent its supply of gas, diesel and heavy fuel oil.

The new sanctions include a freeze on North Korean imports of crude oil at current levels of four million barrels a year and a cap on imports of refined petroleum products at two million barrels annually, or about half the current levels.

Russian Federation had condemned the idea of tightening sanctions on North Korea without any political push to resolve the crisis.

French ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre stated his support for the US-drafted resolution ahead of Monday's vote.

The resolution also adds language underscoring the Security Council's commitment to North Korea's sovereignty and territorial integrity, to "a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the situation", and "its concern that developments on the Korean Peninsula could have unsafe, large-scale regional security implications".

North Korean's Foreign Ministry issued a statement early Monday saying it is watching the United States' moves closely and threatened it is "ready and willing" to respond with measures of its own. North Korea continues to defy UN resolutions and pressure from the worldwide community in pursuit of missiles that can deliver nuclear weapons to the United States.

The US wanted a complete ban on oil exports to North Korea, immediate end to employment of an estimated 93,000 of its citizens overseas, forcible boarding of ships trading with that country to check for contraband, and restrictions on UN.

However, few diplomats or observers believed the punitive measures alone would force Kim Jong-un's regime to stop its nuclear and missile tests.

North Korea had said the latest test was an advanced hydrogen bomb.

Textiles were North Korea's second-biggest export after coal and other minerals in 2016, totalling $752 million, according to data from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

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Blocking textile exports and cutting off the flow of oil from China would potentially be crippling measures.

"We are not looking for war", US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the council after the vote.

She added that the U.S. is not looking for war with North Korea and Pyongyang has "not passed the point of no return". "They give us a much better chance to halt the regime's ability to fuel and finance its nuclear and missile programs, but we all know these steps only work if all nations implement them completely and aggressively".

The latest United Nations resolution asks countries around the world to inspect ships going in and out of North Korea's ports (a provision put in place by the Security Council in 2009) but does not authorise the use of force for ships that do not comply, as the Donald Trump administration had originally proposed.

"Today's resolution would not have happened without the strong relationship that has developed between President Trump and Chinese President Xi", Haley said.

If the pipeline were clogged beyond fix, China might be left without any influence over North Korea, experts say.

Chinese UN ambassador Liu Jieyi again called for talks "sooner rather than later". "The forthcoming measures to be taken by the DPRK will cause the United States the greatest pain and suffering it had [sic] ever gone though in its entire history".

Reaction in Asia to the latest round of global sanctions imposed on North Korea has been positive, but many are still skeptical they will have any significant impact.

"We don't take pleasure in further strengthening sanctions today", said Haley.

"And the textile sector is the final sector of the economy that is not until tonight subject to a ban on exports".

At the same time he acknowledged that the North Koreans do not yet have the capability to launch a missile as far as the UK.