United Nations passes toughest sanctions for decades against North Korea

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United Nations; Coronavirus; Covid-19; Economy

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously approved the toughest sanctions on North Korea in two decades.

The move reflects growing anger at Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test and rocket launch in defiance of a ban on all nuclear-related activity.

The United States and North Korea’s traditional ally China spent seven weeks negotiating the new sanctions.

They include mandatory inspections of cargo leaving and entering North Korea by sea or air, a ban on all sales or transfers of small arms and light weapons to Pyongyang, and the expulsion of diplomats from the North who engage in “illicit activities”.

The US, its Western allies and Japan pressed for new sanctions that went beyond the North’s nuclear and missile programmes but China, Pyongyang’s neighbour, was reluctant to impose measures that could threaten the stability of North Korea and cause its economy to collapse.

The resolution bans the export of coal, iron and iron ore being used to fund North Korea’s nuclear or ballistic missile programmes – and it prohibits all exports of gold, titanium ore, vanadium ore and rare earth minerals. It also bans aviation fuel exports to the country, including “kerosene-type rocket fuel”.

US President Barack Obama said: “The international community, speaking with one voice, has sent Pyongyang a simple message: North Korea must abandon these dangerous programmes and choose a better path for its people.”

US Ambassador Samantha Power told the council after the vote that “part of the perverse reality that has no equal in this world” is that North Korea prioritises its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes over the basic needs of its own people.

The resolution stresses that the new measures are not intended to have “adverse humanitarian consequences” for civilians, the majority of whom face economic hardships and food shortages.

In the financial and banking sector, countries are required to freeze the assets of companies and other entities linked to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes. Under a previous resolution, they were encouraged to do so.

The resolution also prohibits all countries from opening new branches, subsidiaries and representative offices of North Korean banks, and bans financial institutions from establishing new joint ventures or establishing or maintaining correspondent relationships with these banks.

It also orders countries to close all North Korean banks and terminate all banking relationships within 90 days.

Under the four rounds of UN sanctions imposed since the country’s first nuclear test in 2006, North Korea is banned from importing or exporting nuclear or missile items and technology as well as luxury goods.

The new resolution expands the list of banned items, adding luxury items such as expensive watches, snowmobiles, recreational water vehicles and lead crystal.

It also adds 16 individuals, 12 “entities” including the National Aerospace Development Agency which was responsible for February’s rocket launch, and 31 ships owned by the North Korean shipping firm Ocean Maritime Management Company, to the sanctions blacklist. That requires the freezing of assets and, in the case of individuals, a travel ban as well.

The resolution bans Pyongyang from chartering vessels or aircraft, and calls on countries to “de-register” any vessel owned, operated or crewed by the North.

As with previous resolutions, the test will be whether UN member states enforce the sanctions.

A UN panel of experts monitoring the sanctions has repeatedly pointed out that enforcement in a significant number of cases has been weak.

North Korea has ignored many demands, and tried to circumvent others.

It started off the new year with what it claims was its first hydrogen bomb test on January 6 and followed up with the launch of a satellite on a rocket on February 7.

It was condemned by much of the world as a test of banned missile technology.

The resolution calls for a resumption of six-party talks leading to the goal of “the verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner.”

North Korea withdrew from the talks in 2008.

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