US calls proposed sanctions on NKorea a 'major upgrade'

By MICHAEL ASTOR - Associated Press ,

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South Korean protesters shout slogans during a rally to oppose the possible deployment of the United States' advanced defense system THAAD, or Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, on Korea Peninsula, in Seoul.

South Korean protesters shout slogans during a rally to oppose the possible deployment of the United States' advanced defense system THAAD, or Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, on Korea Peninsula, in Seoul. (Photo: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States on Thursday introduced a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that it said will significantly increase pressure on North Korea in response to its latest nuclear test and missile launch.

Ambassador Samantha Power said the draft is meant to ensure North Korea will be held accountable for its actions.

"It is a major upgrade and there will be, provided it goes forward, pressure on more points, tougher, more comprehensive, more sectors. It's breaking new ground in a whole host of ways," Power said before heading into a closed-door meeting where the U.S. planned to circulate the draft to all 15 council members.

The draft is the result of an agreement between the United States and China, North Korea's main ally. The council is expected to vote on it over the weekend.

A U.S. official familiar with the draft, who asked not to be identified because negotiations were ongoing, said the proposed new sanctions are broader in scope than in previous resolutions and contain unprecedented enforcement provisions, including a requirement that countries inspect any cargo passing through their country on its way to or from North Korea.

The draft also includes a total ban on arms sales by or to North Korea, closing a loophole for small arms and light weapons in earlier sanctions resolutions.

It also would ban flights by North Korean planes believed to be carrying illicit goods.

Taking aim at the country's finances, the draft resolution requires states to freeze assets that are determined to be associated with North Korea's ballistic missile program. It also seeks to crack down on North Korea's "proliferation network" by requiring U.N. member states to expel its diplomats and functionaries of companies found to be involved in illicit activities.

The draft resolution would also ban imports of aviation fuel, with no exceptions, and exports of rare earths and mineral by North Korea, the diplomat said.

The official stressed that the sanctions target the ruling elite and are designed not to add to the "grave hardship of the people of DPRK."

Items such as luxury watches, snowmobiles, recreational water vehicles and lead crystal were also added to a list of luxury goods that North Korea is not allowed to import.

North Korea started off the new year with what it claims was its first hydrogen bomb test on Jan. 6 and followed that up with the launch of a satellite on a rocket on Feb. 7 that was condemned by much of the world as a test of banned missile technology.

Over the past 10 years, North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests and launched six long-range missiles — all in violation of Security Council resolutions.

The U.N. draft follows a flurry of activity in Washington, including meetings between China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday, and with National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Wednesday.

The U.S., its Western allies and Japan, also pressed for new sanctions that go beyond the North's nuclear and missile programs. But China, Pyongyang's neighbor and supporter on the council, is reluctant to impose measures that could threaten the stability of North Korea and cause the country's economy to collapse.

The United States has taken tougher steps of its own against North Korea, tightening sanctions and announcing it will hold formal talks with South Korea on deploying a missile defense system that China fears could be used against it as well North Korea.

South Korea and Japan have also announced new measures against Pyongyang.

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