UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations Security Council is set to vote Wednesday to impose new sanctions on North Korea for its fifth and largest nuclear test, slashing Pyongyang’s export earnings by some $800 million, diplomats said on Monday.
Diplomats said the council’s five veto-wielding powers — the United States, China, Britain, Russia and France — had agreed to new measures, seen by Reuters on Friday, that largely target the hermit Asian state’s coal export earnings.
“We didn’t get everything we wanted,” said a U.S. official familiar with the draft resolution, though he added the proposed new sanctions were “pretty good.”
North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear and missile tests. It conducted its latest nuclear test on Sept. 9, and the United States and China, a North Korea ally, spent over two months negotiating new sanctions. The draft text was given to all 15 Security Council members on Friday.
China is believed to be the only country that now buys North Korean coal, and under the U.S.-drafted U.N. resolution likely to be adopted on Wednesday, it would cut its imports by some 60 percent, or $700 million on 2015 sales, diplomats said.
The new sanctions would cap North Korean coal exports at $400.9 million or 7.5 million metric tons annually, whichever is lower, starting on Jan. 1. Over the first 10 months of this year China has imported 18.6 million tons of coal from North Korea, up almost 13 percent from a year ago.
Coal is one of North Korea’s only sources of hard currency and its largest single export item. The draft U.N. resolution would also ban exports of copper, nickel, silver and zinc, which the U.S. official said is worth about $100 million a year.
The draft text would prohibit the sale of statues by North Korea, which the U.S. official said had reaped contracts worth tens of millions of dollars for Pyongyang.
“Pyongyang has prioritized the pursuit of nuclear weapons over just about everything else … so we don’t think this action here in New York will immediately convince the regime’s leader (Kim Jong Un) to cease his pursuit of nuclear weapons, the U.S. official said.
“We do note that our action will be felt and will impede the DPRK (North Korean) regime’s ability to continue these programmes,” the official said.
The draft resolution would prohibit countries from selling North Korea helicopters or vessels.
It calls on U.N. states to reduce the number of staff at North Korea’s foreign missions and requires countries to limit the number of bank accounts to one per North Korean diplomatic mission amid concerns that Pyongyang had used its diplomats and foreign missions to engage in illicit activities.
The draft text says that countries can inspect the personal luggage of individuals entering or leaving North Korea as it could be a way to transport banned items.
The Security Council would blacklist a further 11 individuals, including people who have served as ambassadors to Egypt and Myanmar, and 10 entities, subjecting them to a global travel ban and asset freeze for their role in the North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The sale or transfer of luxury items to North Korea has long been banned by the Security Council. The draft resolution adds rugs or tapestries worth more than $500 and porcelain or bone china tableware valued at more than $100 to the list.
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