Thursday 21st September, 2017
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United Nations - The UN Security Council on Monday unanimously approved new sanctions on North Korea, but not the toughest-ever measures sought by the Trump administration to ban all oil imports and freeze international assets of the government and its leader, Kim Jong Un.

The resolution, responding to Pyongyang's sixth and strongest nuclear test explosion on September 3, does ban North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates. It also bans all textile exports and prohibits any country from authorising new work permits for North Korean workers - two key sources of hard currency for the northeast Asian nation.

As for energy, it caps Pyongyang's imports of crude oil at the level of the last 12 months, and it limits the import of refined petroleum products to 2 million barrels a year.

The watered-down resolution does not include sanctions that the US wanted on North Korea's national airline and the army.

9/11 anniversary

Nonetheless, US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council after the vote that "these are by far the strongest measures ever imposed on North Korea". But she stressed that "these steps only work if all nations implement them completely and aggressively."

Haley noted that the council was meeting on the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack. In a clear message to North Korean threats to attack the US, she said: "We will never forget the lesson that those who have evil intentions must be confronted."

"Today we are saying the world will never accept a nuclear armed North Korea," she said. "We are done trying to prod the regime to do the right thing" and instead are taking steps to prevent it "from doing the wrong thing."

Haley said the US doesn't take pleasure in strengthening sanctions and reiterated that the US does not want war.

"The North Korean regime has not yet passed the point of no return," she said. "If it agrees to stop its nuclear programme it can reclaim its future. If it proves it can live in peace, the world will live in peace with it. ... If North Korea continues its dangerous path, we will continue with further pressure."

Negotiations

The final agreement was reached after negotiations between the US and China, the North's ally and major trading partner. Haley said the resolution never would have happened without the "strong relationship" between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

But its provisions are a significant climb-down from the very tough sanctions the Trump administration proposed last Tuesday, especially on oil, where a complete ban could have crippled North Korea's economy.

The cap on the import of petroleum products could have an impact, but North Korea will still be able to import the same amount of crude oil that it has this year.

The textile ban is significant. Textiles are North Korea's main source of export revenue after coal, iron, seafood and other minerals that have already been severely restricted by previous UN resolutions. North Korean textile exports in 2016 totalled $752.5 million, accounting for about one-fourth of its total $3 billion in merchandise exports, according to South Korean government figures.

Haley said the Trump administration believes the new sanctions combined with previous measures would ban over 90 percent of North Korea's exports reported in 2016.

As for North Koreans working overseas, the US mission said a cutoff on new work permits will eventually cost North Korea about $500 million a year once current work permits expire. The US estimates about 93 000 North Koreans are working abroad, the US official said.

The original US draft would have ordered all countries to impose an asset freeze and travel ban on Kim Jong Un and four other top party and government officials. The resolution adopted Monday adds only one person to the sanctions list - Pak Yong Sik, a member of the Workers' Party of Korea Central Military Commission, which controls the country's military and helps direct its military industries.

The original US draft would also have frozen the assets of North Korea's state-owned airline Air Koryo, the Korean People's Army and five other powerful military and party entities. The resolution adds only the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea and the party's powerful Organization and Guidance Department and its Propaganda and Agitation Department to the sanctions blacklist.

North Korea's Foreign Ministry issued a statement early on Monday 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.

Source: News24

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