UN to vote on new North Korea sanctions Thursday

EDITH M. LEDERER Associated Press Published:

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N. Security Council, ignoring threats from North Korea, is set to impose a fourth round of even tougher sanctions against Pyongyang in a fresh attempt to rein in its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the current council president, said the council will vote on the draft sanctions resolution Thursday morning. The resolution was drafted by and the United States and China, North Korea's closest ally.

The success of a new round of sanctions could depend on enforcement by China, where most of the companies and banks that North Korea is believed to work with are based.

The council's agreement to put the resolution to a vote just 48 hours later signaled that it would almost certainly have the support of all 15 council members.

In anticipation of the resolution's adoption, North Korea has threatened to cancel the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War.

The Korean People's Army Supreme Command, citing the U.S.-led push for sanctions, threatened Tuesday to cancel the armistice agreement on March 11 because of ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills that began March 1. Without elaborating, the command also warned of "surgical strikes" meant to unify the divided Korean Peninsula and of an indigenous, "precision nuclear striking tool."

Such threats have become increasingly common from North Korea as tensions have escalated following last December's rocket launch and Pyongyang's third nuclear test on Feb. 12, in defiance of three council resolutions that bar North Korea from testing or using nuclear or ballistic missile technology and from importing or exporting material for these programs.

U.S. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said the proposed resolution, to be voted on at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT), would impose some of the strongest sanctions ever ordered by the United Nations.

The final version of the draft resolution, released Wednesday, identified three individuals, one corporation and one organization that would be added to the U.N. sanctions list if the measure is approved.

The targets include top officials at a company that is the country's primary arms dealer and main exporter of ballistic missile-related equipment and a national organization responsible for research and development of missiles and probably nuclear weapons.

The United States and other nations worry that North Korea's third nuclear test pushes it closer to its goal of gaining nuclear-armed missiles that can reach the U.S. The international community has condemned the regime's nuclear and missile efforts as threats to regional security and a drain on the resources that could go to North Korea's largely destitute people.

The draft resolution condemns the latest nuclear test "in the strongest terms" for violating and flagrantly disregarding council resolutions, bans further ballistic missile launches, nuclear tests "or any other provocation," and demands that North Korea return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It also condemns all of North Korea's ongoing nuclear activities, including its uranium enrichment.

But the proposed resolution stresses the council's commitment "to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution" and urged a resumption of six-party talks with the aim of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula "in a peaceful manner."

The proposed resolution would make it significantly harder for North Korea to move around the funds it needs to carry out its illicit programs and strengthen existing sanctions and the inspection of suspect cargo bound to and from the country. It would also ban countries from exporting specific luxury goods to the North including yachts, luxury automobiles, racing cars, and jewelry with semi-precious and precious stones and precious metals.

According to the draft, all countries would now be required to freeze financial transactions or services that could contribute to North Korea's nuclear or missile programs.

To get around financial sanctions, North Koreans have been carrying around large suitcases filled with cash to move illicit funds. The draft resolution expresses concern that these bulk cash transfers may be used to evade sanctions. It clarifies that the freeze on financial transactions and services that could violate sanctions applies to all cash transfers as well as the cash couriers.

The proposed resolution also bans all countries from providing public financial support for trade deals, such as granting export credits, guarantees or insurance, if the assistance could contribute to the North's nuclear or missile programs.

It includes what a senior diplomat called unprecedented new travel sanctions that would require countries to expel agents working for sanctioned North Korean companies.

The draft also requires states to inspect suspect cargo on their territory and prevent any vessel that refuses an inspection from entering their ports. And a new aviation measure calls on states to deny aircraft permission to take off, land or fly over their territory if illicit cargo is suspected to be aboard.