UNITED NATIONS – The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a US-drafted resolution that significantly strengthened sanctions on North Korea over its missile programme, imposing a ban on exports aimed at depriving Pyongyang of $1 billion in annual revenue.
The sweeping measures were the first of that scope to be imposed on North Korea since US President Donald Trump took office and highlighted China’s willingness to punish its Pyongyang ally.
Pyongyang tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles in July, claiming it now had the ability to hit the US.
The resolution imposed a full ban on exports of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore as well as fish and seafood by the cash-starved state – stripping North Korea of a third of its export earnings estimated at $3 billion per year.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley said the stiffer measures brought the penalty imposed on North Korea for its ballistic missile tests “to a whole new level” and that the council had put leader Kim Jong-Un “on notice”.
“This is the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation,” Haley told the council after the vote.
“These sanctions will cut deep and in doing so, will give the North Korean leadership a taste of the deprivation they have chosen to inflict on the North Korean people.”
The resolution also prevents North Korea from increasing the number of workers it sends abroad whose earnings are another source of revenue for Kim’s regime.
It prohibits all new joint ventures with North Korea, bans new investment in the current joint companies and adds nine North Korean officials and four entities including North Korea’s main foreign exchange bank to the UN sanctions blacklist.
If fully implemented, the measures would tighten the economic vise around Pyongyang as it seeks to develop its missile and nuclear programs.
Trump hailed the unanimous vote in the Security Council, saying the sanctions will have “very big financial impact!”
United Nations Resolution is the single largest economic sanctions package ever on North Korea. Over one billion dollars in cost to N.K.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2017
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is attending a regional forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Manila, in the Philippines, with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho also present.
Asean’s 10 member states issued a joint statement saying they had “grave concerns” over North Korea’s actions, which “seriously threaten peace”.
Meanwhile, North Korea’s ruling-party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said nuclear action or sanctions taken by Washington would lead to an “unimaginable sea of fire” engulfing the US.
The article, printed before the new UN sanctions were approved, added that if the US did not move away from its “hostile policy towards Pyongyang, the only choice for the US is self-destruction”.
China, North Korea’s only international ally and a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, voted in favour of the resolution this time. It has often protected Pyongyang from harmful resolutions in the past.
Hours after fresh sanctions were agreed by the United Nations Security Council, China’s foreign minister told his North Korean counterpart that Pyongyang should stop carrying out nuclear and missile tests.
Wang Yi said he urged Ri Yong-ho to abide by UN resolutions in a meeting on Sunday in the Philippines. He did not say how the North Korean replied.
Mr Wang said sanctions were needed, but “are not the final goal”, and he urged dialogue. He said he had told North Korea to remain calm, and not provoke the international community with more tests.