U.N. sanctions may hit North space program

Beijing's OK of resolution seen as sign of ally's exasperation


The U.N. Security Council will order sanctions against North Korea’s space agency in a resolution to be passed this week condemning the secretive state’s ballistic launch, a diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the measure has not yet been made public.

The resolution, which also targets other government entities and individuals linked to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, could be passed by the 15-member council as early as Wednesday.

The U.S. and China have been negotiating the new measures since North Korea staged its missile launch on Dec. 12.

Despite near universal condemnation of the launch, China has sought to shield its ally against major new action. The United States, supported by South Korea and Japan, had sought tough new punishment of the North Korean government.

Under a compromise between the two, the new sanctions are expected to be added to existing measures imposed after North Korea staged nuclear weapons tests in 2006 and 2009.

“The resolution condemns the launch and reiterates the Security Council’s previous demands that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program and not proceed with further launches,” the diplomatic source said.

It “imposes new sanctions on North Korean companies, and government agencies, including North Korea’s space agency responsible for the launch, and several individuals,” the source added Monday.

North Korea denied accusations by the United Nations and the international powers that the rocket was a ballistic test. Pyongyang said it was launching an observation satellite.

The proposed resolution updates lists of nuclear and ballistic missile technology banned for transfer to and from North Korea.

It includes “new provisions targeting North Korea’s illicit procurement efforts, in particular its smuggling of sensitive items that could contribute to the prohibited programs,” the diplomat said, declining to provide further details.

Washington hopes for a quick vote on the draft resolution, possibly by Wednesday.

Russia, which could be another obstacle to sanctions, has also approved the resolution, the diplomat said.

“The resolution will be a signal that China is becoming increasingly exasperated at North Korea’s behavior,” another western diplomat said.

The U.N. already has 11 banks, trading companies and other entities on an assets freeze list that has grown since the nuclear tests.

The sanctions list also includes five individuals — three nuclear officials and two directors of trading companies that have procured technology.