U.S., China agree on new sanctions for North Korea

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U.S., China agree on new sanctions for North Korea

The United States and China have come to agreement on a UN Security Council resolution on North Korea’s fifth nuclear test in September, according to various diplomatic sources.

“The United States and China reached agreement on a new sanctions resolution on North Korea,” a UN source who requested anonymity told the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday. “The five permanent members of the Security Council have entered into a review of the draft.”

If all goes smoothly, a resolution expected to impose stronger sanctions on Pyongyang may be voted on in the 15-member UN Security Council as early as next week.

The other permanent members of the council with veto power are the United Kingdom, France and Russia.

A key component of the agreement reached by the United States and China is said to be new restrictions on exports of North Korea’s mineral resources, namely coal, seen as a source of foreign cash for the isolated regime.

North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test on Sept. 9, following a fourth test in January, prompting the Security Council to work on additional sanctions.

UNSC Resolution 2270, which was implemented in March, imposed the toughest-to-date sanctions to date.

Under UNSC Resolution 2270 Pyongyang is not allowed to supply, sell or transfer coal, iron, iron ore, gold, titanium ore, vanadium ore, and rare earth minerals.

However, it includes an exception for transactions that are for “livelihood purposes” unrelated to generating revenue for North Korea’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs and other illicit activities.

Resolution 2270 also banned sales of aviation fuel and rocket fuel except for verified essential humanitarian needs and for refueling civilian passenger aircraft for return flights to Pyongyang.

But there are no signs of decreased coal exports from North Korea.

“Though a considerable amount of time has passed since Resolution 2270 took effect, North Korea’s coal exports have not decreased,” the source continued. “The new draft resolution includes a means to significantly decrease coal exports.”

This new resolution is said to include a mechanism to actually verify if coal export revenues are used for livelihood purposes in North Korea.

It is expected that North Korea will have stricter obligations to prove its exports to a country and unverified products will not be able to be exported.

The South Korean and U.S. governments believe Pyongyang was able to finance its fifth nuclear test and develop ballistic missiles through exports of coal and minerals.

North Korea’s coal exports last year reached $1.35 billion, according to the Korea Development Institute think tank. Some 96 percent of those exports went to China.

The UN source elaborated, “The reason why the U.S.-China negotiations took over two months is because there is a difference in positions between the United States, which said that all exemption clauses had to be blocked, while China wanted to allow as many as possible exemption clauses.”

However, the resolution doesn’t restrict North Korea’s overseas laborers, which were rumored to be included in these sanctions.

There are up to 60,000 North Korean workers overseas earning foreign currency for the Kim Jong-un regime. It is estimated that these workers send back up to $300 million annually.

U.S. President Barack Obama requested Chinese President Xi Jinping’s cooperation on stricter sanctions against North Korea on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru on Saturday.

BY LEE SANG-RYEOL, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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