The UN Security Council, ignoring threats from North Korea, is set to impose a fourth round of even tougher sanctions against Pyongyang in a fresh attempt to rein in its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Russia's UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the current council
president, said the council will vote on the draft sanctions resolution on Thursday. The resolution was drafted by the United States and China, North Korea's closest ally.
The success of a new round of sanctions could depend on enforcement by China, where most of the companies and banks that North Korea is believed to work with are based.
The council's agreement to put the resolution to a vote just 48 hours later signalled that it would almost certainly have the support of all 15 council members.
In anticipation of the resolution's adoption, North Korea has threatened to cancel the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War.
The Korean People's Army Supreme Command, citing the US-led push for sanctions, threatened on Tuesday to cancel the armistice agreement on March 11 because of ongoing US-South Korean military drills that began on March 1.
Without elaborating, the command also warned of "surgical strikes" meant to unify the divided Korean Peninsula and of an indigenous, "precision nuclear striking tool."
Such threats have become increasingly common from North Korea as tensions have escalated following last December's rocket launch and Pyongyang's third nuclear test on February 12, in defiance of three council resolutions that bar North Korea from testing or using nuclear or ballistic missile technology and from importing or exporting material for these programs.
US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said the proposed resolution, to be voted on at 3pm GMT, will impose some of the strongest sanctions ever ordered by the United Nations.
The final version of the draft resolution, released on Wednesday, identified three individuals, one corporation and one organisation that will be added to the UN sanctions list if the measure is approved.
The targets include top officials at a company that is the country's primary arms dealer and main exporter of ballistic missile-related equipment and a national organisation responsible for research and development of missiles and probably nuclear weapons.
The United States and other nations worry that North Korea's third nuclear test pushes it closer to its goal of gaining nuclear-armed missiles that can reach the US. The international community has condemned the regime's nuclear and missile efforts as threats to regional security and a drain on the resources that could go to North Korea's largely destitute people.
The draft resolution condemns the latest nuclear test "in the strongest terms" for violating and flagrantly disregarding council resolutions, bans further ballistic missile launches, nuclear tests "or any other provocation," and demands that North Korea return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
It also condemns all of North Korea's ongoing nuclear activities, including its uranium enrichment.
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