Key nations agree on N. Korea sanctions

Draft resolution would expand arms embargo, freeze assets of more of communist nation's companies.

North Korea China divide 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
North Korea China divide 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Seven key nations have agreed on tough new UN sanctions against North Korea for defying the UN Security Council and conducting a second nuclear test, diplomats said Wednesday. Ambassadors from the five permanent Security Council nations - the US, China, Russia, Britain and France - and the two countries most closely affected by the test, Japan and South Korea, reached agreement on the draft UN resolution after two weeks of closed-door negotiations, the diplomats said. Past sanctions, however, have had little effect in dissuading the regime from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the presentation of the draft resolution to the 15-member Security Council late Wednesday morning for consideration. Since the draft already has support from the five veto-wielding members, its adoption is virtually certain. The draft, obtained by The Associated Press, would expand an arms embargo against North Korea, seek to curtail the North's financial dealings with the outside world, freeze assets of additional North Korean companies. It would also authorize searches of ships on the high seas suspected of carrying banned weapons and nuclear material pending approval form the nation whose flag the ship was flying. If the country doesn't give its consent - a virtual certainty if it was a North Korean ship - the flag nation is required to direct the vessel to proceed to "an appropriate and convenient port for the required inspection by the local authorities." The draft resolution does not authorize the use of force to compel a ship to port. The resolution also requires all countries not to provide fuel or other supplies to North Korean vessels if there are reasonable grounds to suspect they are carrying prohibited weapons or other items. And it calls on all countries to inspect cargo headed for or coming from North Korea suspected of containing prohibited material, "in accordance with their national legal authorities and consistent with international law." North Korea has bristled at any talk of sanctions. On Monday, Pyongyang's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the country will consider any sanctions a declaration of war and will respond to it with "due corresponding self-defense measures." On Tuesday, North Korea said it would use nuclear weapons in a "merciless offensive" if provoked. The draft would have the Security Council condemn "in the strongest terms" the North's nuclear test on May 25 "in violation and flagrant disregard" of the sanctions resolution it approved after Pyongyang's first nuclear test in October 2006. It would also demand a halt to any further nuclear test or missile launch and reiterate the council's demand that the North abandon all nuclear weapons, return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, allow UN nuclear inspections, and rejoin six-party talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear program. The draft would expand an arms embargo on heavy weapons imposed by the Security Council after the 2006 underground test. It would ban North Korea from exporting all weapons, which would eliminate a significant source of revenue for North Korea, and it would ban the import of all arms except light weapons. The draft calls on the 192 UN member states to prevent financial institutions or individuals in their countries from providing financial services, funds or resources that could contribute to North Korea's "nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related, or other weapons of mass destruction-related programs or activities." It says this can be done by freezing the funds or assets. The draft also calls on all member states and international financial and credit institutions not to authorize new grants, financial aid, or concessional loans to North Korea "except for humanitarian and developmental purposes directly addressing the needs of the civilian population or the promotion of denuclearization." It also calls on all member states not to provide public financial support for trade with North Korea that could contribute to its banned weapons programs, including granting export credits, guarantees, or insurance to companies or citizens involved in such trade.