The UN Security Council was expected on Friday to adopt tougher sanctions targeting North Korea's atomic and ballistic missile programs in response to the Stalinist state's nuclear defiance.
The 15-member body was to meet at 11:00 am (1500 GMT) for a likely vote on a draft resolution already agreed by its five veto-wielding permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Japan and South Korea.
The text calls on UN member states to slap biting sanctions, including tougher inspections of cargo suspected of containing banned items related to North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile activities, a tighter arms embargo with the exception of light weapons and new financial restrictions.
Passage is a foregone conclusion -- nine votes in favor are required with no veto -- after more than two weeks of intensive bargaining among the seven sponsors that produced a compromise text to punish Pyongyang for its May 25 underground nuclear test and subsequent missile firings in violation of UN resolutions.
On Wednesday, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said that if adopted, the resolution will send the message that "North Korea's behavior is unacceptable, (that) they must pay a price, return without conditions to a process of negotiation and that the consequences they will face are significant."
Despite the escalating showdown, the US envoy on North Korea on Thursday voiced hope for a diplomatic solution with Pyongyang and predicted it would eventually return to the negotiating table.
US special envoy Stephen Bosworth told a Senate hearing that Washington was using a variety of tools with North Korea, ranging from sanctions to diplomatic engagement -- "if North Korea shows seriousness of purpose."
"In the interest of all concerned, we very much hope that North Korea will choose the path of diplomacy rather than confrontation," he added.
The draft "condemns in the strongest terms" the North Korean nuclear test and "demands that the DPRK (North Korea) not conduct any further nuclear test or any launch using ballistic missile technology."
It declares that Pyongyang "shall abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner and immediately cease all related activities."
The Stalinist regime is also required to "immediately retract its announcement of withdrawal from the NPT (Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty)" and return immediately to the six-party talks on a nuclear-free Korean peninsula without precondition.
The draft calls on member states to prevent the provision of financial services or the transfer of any financial or other assets or resources that could contribute to the DPRK's nuclear related, ballistic missile-related or other weapons of mass destruction-related programs or activities.
And it decides to extend an assets freeze and travel ban decreed in a 2006 resolution to additional North Korean entities, goods and individuals.
North Korea launched a long-range missile in April, which was roundly condemned by the Security Council. Pyongyang then retaliated by announcing May 25 that it had staged a second nuclear weapons test, following one in 2006.
It also has declared the armistice ending the 1950-53 Korean War as void.