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US calls for Monday vote at United Nations on new North Korea sanctions

The United States has called for a vote on Monday on a UN resolution that would impose the toughest-ever sanctions on North Korea, a move that could lead to a showdown with the country's biggest trading partner China and its neighbour Russia.

The Trump administration adopted a totally new approach with this resolution, circulating an American draft on Tuesday and setting a vote six days later.

With previous sanctions resolutions, the US spent weeks and sometimes months negotiating the text with China and then presenting a resolution to the rest of the Security Council for a vote.

Several diplomats said the US demand for a speedy council vote was aimed at putting maximum pressure on China and reflected Washington's escalating concern over North Korea's latest nuclear test, which its leaders touted as a hydrogen bomb, and its recent ballistic missile launch over Japan.

The UK's UN ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who backs "robust" new sanctions, said Thursday that the US proposals to ban all oil imports and textile exports and prohibit North Koreans from working overseas - which helps fund and fuel the country's nuclear and missile programmes - are "a proportionate response" to its "illegal and reckless behaviour".

Mr Rycroft stressed that "maximum possible pressure" must be exerted on North Korea to change course and give diplomacy a chance to end the crisis.

The proposed US sanctions would also freeze all foreign financial assets of the government and its leader, Kim Jong Un.

The US draft also identified nine ships that have carried out activities prohibited by previous UN resolutions and would authorise any UN member state to stop these vessels on the high seas without their consent and use "all necessary measures" - which in UN language includes force - to carry out an inspection and direct the vessel to a port.

Diplomats said all 15 Security Council members discussed the draft on Friday, and both China and Russia appeared willing to negotiate.

Russia has said sanctions are not working and President Vladimir Putin expressed concern that a total oil cut-off could hurt the North Korean people.

Beijing and Moscow have called for a resolution that focuses on a political solution and have proposed a freeze-for-freeze that would halt North Korean nuclear and missile tests in exchange for the US and South Korea halting their joint military exercises - an initiative rejected by the Donald Trump administration.

There was no word on the outcome of negotiations, and whether any changes sought by the Russians and Chinese were acceptable to the United States.

A brief statement from the US Mission to the United Nations late Friday said: "This evening, the United States informed the UN Security Council that it intends to call a meeting to vote on a draft resolution to establish additional sanctions on North Korea on Monday, September 11."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who called the nuclear risk in North Korea the most dangerous crisis in the world today, told reporters Tuesday that "the unity of the Security Council is absolutely crucial".

He said that only a united council can provide the pressure needed to enable successful negotiations to take place to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula.

AP

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