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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

America looks for further UN sanctions against North Korea

Security Council is being asked to impose new measures including an oil embargo and a naval blockade

A North Korean soldier stands on the bank of the Yalu River in Sinuiju, North Korea, which borders Dandong in China's Liaoning province
A North Korean soldier stands on the bank of the Yalu River in Sinuiju, North Korea, which borders Dandong in China's Liaoning province

America is continuing to attempt to use the diplomatic measures at its disposal to resolve the North Korean nuclear weapons programme crisis, it has been reported. The Observer says that the US is looking to persuade fellow members of the UN Security Council to enact an oil embargo and a naval blockade on the hermit state.

An early draft of a Security Council resolution also proposes the blocking of textile exports and hiring of North Korean labour by foreign countries. The Americans have introduced the latest round of sanctions following the detonation of what is believed to be an H-bomb last Sunday by the Pyongyang regime.

The resolution as reported by the British newspaper “authorises naval vessels of any UN member state to inspect North Korean ships suspected of carrying banned cargo and to use ‘all necessary measures to carry out such inspections’”.

It’s very likely that such an action would be a precursor to military action between the North Koreans and states such as the US, bringing them directly into conflict and turning up the heat on the troublesome situation in east Asia.

The draft resolution being proposed will also propose the banning of exports of “crude oil, condensates, refined petroleum products, and natural gas liquids” to North Korea, as North Korea’s critics say that the regime uses foreign currency “to support its prohibited nuclear and ballistic missile programmes”.

With China and Russia – both permanent members of the UN Security Council who have the right to veto any proposal before the council – being some of the many countries that use North Korean labour, this would be a move that could possibly split the UN response.

“Up to now, the Chinese and the Russians have tried to keep on giving the US just enough to keep Trump playing the UN game,” said Richard Gowan, an expert on the UN at the European Council for Foreign Relations. “The question is what happens with an extraordinarily hardline resolution and US pressure to do something quickly.”

“All sides want to keep this in the council. And, for all the talk, the US doesn’t actually want a war here,” Gowan said. “At some point, they are going to have to compromise or walk away from the UN.”

North Korea illegally exported coal, iron and other commodities worth at least $270 million to China and other countries including India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka in the six-month period ending in early August in violation of sanctions, UN experts say.

The experts monitoring sanctions said in a report released Saturday that Kim Jong Un's government continues to flout sanctions on commodities as well as an arms embargo and restrictions on shipping and financial activities.

They said North Korea is also reportedly continuing prohibited nuclear activities with weapons-grade fissile material production at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, construction and maintenance at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, and at a uranium mine in Pyongsan.

The eight-member panel of experts said it is also investigating the widespread presence of North Koreans in Africa and the Middle East, particularly in Syria, "including their involvement in prohibited activities."

The experts said one inquiry is into "reported prohibited chemical, ballistic missile and conventional arms cooperation" between Syria and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the country's official name. They said this includes activities on Syrian Scud missile programs and "maintenance and repair of Syrian surface-to-air missiles (SAM) air defense systems."

The panel noted that two unnamed countries reported intercepting shipments destined for Syria. It did not identify the contents and said Syria has yet to respond to its inquiries.

The 111-page report was written before North Korea's sixth and most powerful nuclear test last Sunday and its latest launch of a powerful new intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan.

It was made public two days before the United States has called for a vote on a new sanctions resolution. The original US draft would impose the toughest-ever sanctions on North Korea including banning all oil and natural gas exports to the country and freezing all foreign financial assets of the government and its leader Kim Jong-Un.

The experts said implementation of existing sanctions "lags far behind what is necessary to achieve the core goal of denuclearisation" of the Korean peninsula.