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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

UNSC imposes new sanctions on North Korea, cuts off most fuel

The resolution adopted by the council includes the return home of all North Koreans working overseas within 24 months, and a crackdown on ships smuggling banned items.

world Updated: Dec 23, 2017 21:53 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (L) speaks with Chinese Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Wu Haitao (R) ahead of the United Nations Security Council session on imposing new sanctions on North Korea, in New York on December 22.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (L) speaks with Chinese Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Wu Haitao (R) ahead of the United Nations Security Council session on imposing new sanctions on North Korea, in New York on December 22.(REUTERS)

The UN Security Council has adopted a new and tougher set of sanctions against North Korea that drastically cut its export of crude oil and related products and other goods, and seeks to withdraw its citizens working abroad who are a rich source of foreign currency.

The US-drafted sanctions were approved unanimously by the 15-member Security Council, including North Korea’s leading trade partners China and Russia.

President Donald Trump welcomed the new sanctions. “The United Nations Security Council just voted 15-0 in favour of additional Sanctions on North Korea,” he tweeted. “The World wants Peace, not Death!”

Trump has not said a word or sent out a tweet about the General Assembly resolution that passed with an overwhelming majority on Thursday, condemning the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, upending America’s long-standing policy and an international consensus that existed for decades. Trump had threatened to punish backers of the resolution by cutting US aid to them. That resolution was passed 128-9.

The Friday vote in the Security Council seeks to punish North Korea for the November 29 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile in violation of UN sanctions. Experts said he missile had the range to hit anywhere on US mainland.

US ambassador to UN Nikki Haley said, “This was another attempt by the Kim regime to masquerade as a great power, while their people starve and their soldiers defect. But for the international community, this is an unprecedented challenge from a defiant state. So we have levelled an unprecedented response.”

She added: “Today, we cut deeper.”

The new sanctions add to long list of prohibitions already in place, including a ban on textile exports and all joint ventures and all new work permits for overseas North Korean workers, and cut its petroleum imports by 55%.

The Friday measures require all countries to expel North Korean workers within 24 months, ban all remaining categories of major North Korean exports – a loss of nearly $250 million in revenue to the regime, according to the Americans — and enjoins countries to seize and impound ships caught smuggling illicit goods.

Haley recalled that the previous sanctions resolution, when combined with earlier measures, would ban over 90% of North Korea’s exports reported in 2016.

That resolution, adopted in response to North Korea’s sixth and strongest nuclear test explosion on September 3, banned Pyongyang from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates. It also banned all textile exports and prohibited any country from authorising new work permits for North Korean workers — two key sources of hard currency for the northeast Asian nation.

Here are key provisions of the new sanctions:

—The import of refined oil products, including diesel and kerosene that are key to North Korea’s economy, is capped at 500,000 barrels a year. The U.S. Mission said North Korea imported 4.5 million barrels of refined petroleum in 2016. The new cap represents a nearly 90 percent ban of refined products, and a reduction from the 2 million barrels a year the council authorized in the September resolution.

—The import of crude oil is capped at 4 million barrels a year and countries supplying oil are required to provide quarterly reports to the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions on North Korea.

—North Korea is banned from exporting food and agriculture products, machinery, electrical equipment, earth and stones, wood and vessels — and all countries are banned from importing these items.

—All countries are banned from exporting industrial machinery, transportation vehicles, iron, steel and other metals to North Korea.

—All countries must expel North Korean workers and safety monitors by the end of 2019. The resolution expresses concern that earnings from these workers are being used to support the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. According to the U.S. Mission, there are nearly 100,000 overseas North Korean workers, with about 50,000 in China and 30,000 in Russia.

—UN member states are authorized to seize, inspect and impound any ship in their ports or territorial waters suspected of being involved in illegal smuggling and evasion of U.N. sanctions. The resolution expresses “great concern” that North Korea is illegally exporting coal and other prohibited items “through deceptive maritime practices and obtaining petroleum illegally through ship-to-ship transfers.”

—All countries are banned from providing insurance or re-insurance to North Korean-affiliated ships believed to be involved in illegal smuggling and sanctions evasion and are required to de-register these vessels.

—Fifteen North Koreans, including 13 representing banks overseas, and the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces were added to the U.N. sanctions blacklist. The two others facing a travel ban and asset freeze are Kim Jong Sik, identified as a leading official guiding North Korea’s development of weapons of mass destruction, and Ri Pyong Chul, an alternate member of the Political Bureau of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and first vice director of the Munitions Industry Department.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the Security Council was sending “a very strong united signal to the North Korean regime that enough is enough — that they must stop their nuclear program and they must stop their intercontinental ballistic missile program.”

France’s UN ambassador, Francois Delattre, said: “We believe maximum pressure today is our best lever to a political and diplomatic solution tomorrow ... (and) our best antidote to the risk of war.”

The new resolution reiterates the Security Council’s regret at North Korea’s “massive diversion of its scarce resources toward its development of nuclear weapons and a number of expensive ballistic missile programs.” It notes that 41% of the population is undernourished.

The resolution reaffirms the council’s support for a resumption of six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear programme aimed at the peaceful denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

It also reiterates the importance of maintaining peace and stability in northeast Asia and “expresses its commitment to a peace, diplomatic and political solution to the situation ... through dialogue.” (With inputs from Associated Press)

First Published: Dec 23, 2017 07:46 IST