UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United States called for a vote yesterday on new United Nations (UN) sanctions against North Korea, though exactly what measures would be in the resolution remained a mystery.
Security Council diplomats, who weren’t authorised to speak publicly because talks have been private, said the US and China were still negotiating the text.
Previous UN sanctions resolutions have been negotiated between the United States and China – North Korea’s main trading partner and ally – and have taken weeks, and in some cases months, to finalise.
But the Trump administration adopted a totally new approach with this resolution, presenting its draft to China and all other Security Council members last Tuesday and demanding a vote in six days. Diplomats said China’s UN ambassador, Liu Jieyi, who was on a Security Council trip to Ethiopia, flew back to New York on Thursday to take part in negotiations.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement early yesterday saying it was watching the United States’ moves closely and warned that it was “ready and willing” to respond with measures of its own. It said the US would pay a heavy price if the sanctions proposed by Washington are adopted.
Ethiopia’s UN mission, the current Security Council president, said late Sunday that members would vote on a North Korea resolution following a meeting Monday afternoon on implementing existing sanctions against the North Korean government.
The draft circulated by the United States called for imposing the toughest-ever UN sanctions on North Korea, including a ban on all oil and natural gas exports to the country and a freeze of all foreign financial assets of the government and its leader, Kim Jong Un.
The US is also seeking to ban all countries from hiring workers from North Korea and from importing textiles from the northeast Asian nation – two key sources of foreign currency.
In another key measure, the US draft identified nine ships that have carried out activities prohibited by previous UN sanctions resolutions. The draft would authorise the 192 other UN member states to stop these ships on the high seas to check their cargo without their consent. It would permit the use of “all necessary measures”, which in UN language includes force, to carry out an inspection and direct the vessel to a port.
Whether those provisions would remain in any resolution put to a vote remained to be seen.
In Beijing yesterday, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China supports new UN measures in response to North Korea’s latest nuclear test in the hope that they would promote a political resolution “through peaceful means”.
Geng also urged a renewal of talks with North Korea, in keeping with longstanding Chinese policy, and said Beijing opposed unilateral measures such as those imposed by the US that would punish Chinese persons or entities without a UN mandate.
Beijing and Moscow have called for a resolution that focuses on a political solution and proposed a freeze-for-freeze that would halt North Korean nuclear and missile tests in exchange for the US and South Korea stopping their joint military exercises. That initiative was rejected by the Trump administration.
Russia argues that sanctions aren’t working and President Vladimir Putin expressed concern last week that a total oil cut-off could hurt the North Korean people.
Britain’s UN ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, backed the tough US measures and demand for a speedy vote, saying Thursday that “maximum possible pressure” must be exerted on North Korea to change course and give diplomacy a chance to end the crisis.
Professor Joseph DeThomas of Pennsylvania State University, a former US ambassador and State Department official who dealt with North Korea, told The Associated Press on Friday that the US demand for quick council action was “an indicator of how the administration thinks time has run out”.