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New North Korea sanctions plan a 'major upgrade' - US

Published 26/02/2016

US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power says the latest sanctions plan against North Korea is a significant upgrade (AP)
US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power says the latest sanctions plan against North Korea is a significant upgrade (AP)

The United States has introduced a draft United Nations Security Council resolution that it says will significantly increase pressure on North Korea in the wake of its latest nuclear test and rocket launch.

Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the world body, said the draft, which for the first time would subject cargo ships leaving and entering North Korea to mandatory inspections, went further than previous sanctions and was meant to ensure the reclusive communist state would be held accountable for its actions.

"It is a major upgrade and there will be, provided it goes forward, pressure on more points, tougher, more comprehensive, more sectors. It's breaking new ground in a whole host of ways," Ms Power said before heading into a closed-door meeting where the US planned to circulate the draft to all 15 council members.

The draft is the result of an agreement between the United States and China - North Korea's main ally. Beijing's involvement signals a policy shift with regard to its often erratic neighbour.

The security council is expected to vote on it over the weekend.

"We are opposed to any nuclear testing and the launch testing of ballistic missile technology and we hope this resolution will help to prevent further occurrences of this nature," China's UN ambassador Liu Jieyi said after the meeting.

He said China was working very closely with other members of the security council and he hoped the resolution "would achieve the objective of denuclearisation" and result in "peace and stability".

In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the resolution praised China's co-operation.

"I do think that it is indicative of how productive diplomacy can be. It's not easy, but it certainly is an indication that the United States and China, when our interests are aligned, can co-operate quite effectively to advance the interests of citizens in both our countries," he said.

Ms Power said the sanctions would also ban the sale of small arms and other conventional weapons to North Korea, closing a loophole in earlier resolutions.

She said the sanctions would also limit, and in some cases ban, exports of coal, iron gold titanium and rare earth minerals from North Korea and would forbid countries from supplying aviation fuel, including rocket fuel to the country.

In addition, the resolution imposes financial sanctions targeting North Korean banks and assets and bans all dual-use nuclear and missile related items.

Referring to North Korea by the abbreviation for its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Ms Power said: "These sanctions, if adopted, would send an unambiguous and unyielding message to the DPRK: the world will not accept you proliferation.

"There will be consequences for your actions and we will work relentlessly and collectively to stop your nuclear programme."

She stressed that the sanctions targeted the ruling elite and not the North Korean people.

"The North Korean people have suffered so much already under one of the most brutal regimes the world has ever known," she said.

Items such as luxury watches, snowmobiles, recreational water vehicles and lead crystal were also added to a long list of luxury goods that North Korea is not allowed to import.

"We remain clear-eyed about the prospects of an immediate change in DPRK's behaviour but we have seen how robust sanctions can alter a government's dangerous nuclear ambitions in other contexts," Ms Power said.

North Korea started 2016 with what it claims was its first hydrogen bomb test on January 6 and followed that up with the launch of a satellite on a rocket on February 7 that was condemned by much of the world as a test of banned missile technology.

Over the past 20 years North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests and launched six long-range rockets - all in breach of UN resolutions.

The UN draft follows a flurry of activity in Washington, including meetings between China's foreign minister Wang Yi and US secretary of state John Kerry on Tuesday, and with national security adviser Susan Rice on Wednesday.

Jeong Joon-Hee, a spokesman for Seoul's unification ministry, said the measures included in the draft would significantly hurt the North's foreign currency income because it is estimated that minerals account for nearly 40% of the country's exports.

The US, its Western allies and Japan, also pressed for new sanctions that go beyond the North's nuclear and missile programme, but China, Pyongyang's neighbour and supporter on the security council, is reluctant to impose measures that could threaten the stability of North Korea and cause the country's economy to collapse.

The United States has taken tougher steps of its own against North Korea, tightening sanctions and announcing it will hold formal talks with South Korea on deploying a missile defense system that China fears could be used against it as well North Korea.

South Korea and Japan have also announced new measures against Pyongyang.

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