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US unveils tougher new UN sanctions on North Korea

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The United States on Friday presented a draft UN resolution toughening sanctions on North Korea with a sweeping ban on exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood that could deprive Pyongyang of US$1 billion in annual revenue.

[UNITED NATIONS] The United States on Friday presented a draft UN resolution toughening sanctions on North Korea with a sweeping ban on exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood that could deprive Pyongyang of US$1 billion in annual revenue.

After a month of negotiations, the United States reached a deal with China, North Korea's main trading partner and ally, on the measures aimed at ratcheting up pressure on Pyongyang to halt its missile and nuclear tests.

The United States requested the UN Security Council hold a vote on Saturday on the new raft of sanctions, but the meeting was not immediately confirmed.

The draft resolution calls for a ban on all exports of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore, as well as fish and seafood by the cash-starved state, according to the text seen by AFP.

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If implemented by all countries, the ban would strip Pyongyang of roughly a third of its export earnings estimated at US$3 billion per year, according to a diplomat familiar with the negotiations.

The diplomat, who briefed reporters on the content of the draft, said he had "high confidence" that China and Russia would support the proposed sanctions.

Backed by its European allies, Japan and South Korea, the United States has been leading the push at the United Nations for tougher sanctions in response to North Korea's launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4.

A second test on July 28 further raised alarm about Pyongyang's drive to develop a missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

The draft text would also prevent North Korea from increasing the number of workers it sends abroad, prohibit all new joint ventures and ban new investment in the current joint companies.

North Korea is blamed for a "massive diversion of its scarce resources" toward the development of "nuclear weapons and a number of expensive ballistic missile programs," the draft resolution said.

The new raft of measures would be the seventh set of UN sanctions imposed on North Korea since it first carried out a nuclear test in 2006, but these have failed to compel Pyongyang to change its behavior.

Two resolutions adopted last year however have introduced economic sanctions with more bite.

The United States has put heavy pressure on China, which accounts for 90 per cent of trade with North Korea, to enforce the sanctions.

The proposed resolution would add North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank, the primary foreign exchange bank, to a UN sanctions blacklist, which provides for an assets freeze.

It would also tighten trade restrictions on technology to prevent North Korea from acquiring items that could be used for its military programs.

Under the proposed measure, North Korean vessels caught violating UN resolutions would be banned from entering ports in all countries.

The draft resolution however does not provide for cuts to oil deliveries to North Korea - a move that would have dealt a serious blow to the economy.

Russia, which like China is a veto-wielding council member, had warned that it would not support sanctions that would worsen North Korea's humanitarian crisis.

The United States and its allies have argued that tougher sanctions are needed to force North Korea to come to the negotiating table to discuss a halt to its military programs.

China and Russia have meanwhile insisted that sanctions alone will not change Pyongyang's behaviour and that talks are needed to address the crisis.

As negotiations at the United Nations entered the final stretch, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that Washington was not seeking regime change in North Korea and was willing to talk to Pyongyang.

AFP

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