UN sanctions squeeze North’s oil supply

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UN sanctions squeeze North’s oil supply

North Korea slammed a United Nations Security Council sanctions resolution as an “act of war” tantamount to a “complete economic blockade” - and warned that every country that voted in favor will pay a “heavy price.”

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted an unidentified spokesperson for the North’s Foreign Affairs Ministry as saying on Christmas Eve that the regime “categorically” rejects Resolution 2397, passed last Friday in New York.

According to an English version of the statement, the spokesman said, “If the U.S. wishes to live safely, it must abandon its hostile policy towards the DPRK and learn to coexist with the country that has nuclear weapons and should wake up from its pipe dream of our country giving up nuclear weapons.”

DPRK is an acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“Those countries that raised their hands in favor of this ‘sanctions resolution’ shall be held completely responsible for all the consequences to be caused by the ‘resolution’ and will make sure for ever and ever that they pay heavy price for what they have done,” it said in a characteristically bombastic tone.

North Korea vowed to “further consolidate our self-defensive nuclear deterrence aimed at fundamentally eradicating the U.S. nuclear threats, blackmail and hostile moves by establishing the practical balance of force” with Washington.

It was the third resolution imposed on North Korea this year for its nuclear and missile programs and the 10th since Resolution 1718 in 2006. The UN Security Council voted unanimously to choke off fuel supplies to the regime and have countries expel all North Korean overseas laborers by the end of 2019.

Resolution 2397 was in response to North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Nov. 29, which South Korean and American authorities admitted could reach any place on the U.S. mainland, including Washington.

On the day of the test, Pyongyang claimed via the KCNA it had finally mastered its nuclear development program.

The latest sanctions aim to slash the amount of refined petroleum North Korea is allowed to import each year to 500,000 barrels, down from the 2 million barrels permitted in the previous resolution in September. The measure is expected to cut the North’s imports of gasoline, diesel and other refined products by 89 percent, crippling its fuel supply.

North Korean overseas laborers, a major source of money for the cash-strapped regime, will be ordered to leave their host countries within the next two years, or by the end of 2019. According to a fact sheet from the U.S. mission to the UN, the regime is believed to be earning over $500 million each year from heavily taxing the nearly 100,000 overseas workers, with as many as 50,000 toiling in China and 30,000 in Russia alone.

North Korea has also been banned from exporting food, agricultural products, minerals machinery and electrical equipment, which will cut off $200 million or more in annual export revenues. By prohibiting the North from importing heavy machinery, industrial equipment and transportation vehicles, the Council hopes to reduce nearly 30 percent of the country’s imports, or $1.2 billion based on 2016 figures.

Some last-minute changes to the U.S.-drafted resolution in order to win approval from China and Russia, two veto-wielding countries, included extending the deadline for North Korean laborers to return back to the North from an initial 12 months to 24 months.

The latest resolution didn’t include an interdiction measure on North Korean vessels traveling in international waters, which the United States reportedly has been encouraging since last September.

“The Kim regime continues to defy the resolutions of this council, the norms of civilized behavior and the patience of the international community,” Washington’s envoy to the UN, Nikki Haley, said last Friday in New York after the vote. “Their arrogance and hostility to anything productive has set their country on a destructive path.”

Haley warned of more sanctions if Pyongyang refused to “choose the path of peace.”

After the vote last Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted: “The United Nations Security Council just voted 15-0 in favor of additional Sanctions on North Korea. The World wants Peace, not Death!”

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday that it “welcomes and supports” the latest UN resolution and called on Pyongyang to denuclearize and accept Seoul’s proposal for dialogue.

On another front, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said Saturday in Pyongyang while presiding over the 5th Conference of the WPK Cell Chairpersons, a meeting with the heads of the lowest-level units within the ruling Workers’ Party, that the chairmen were ordered to conduct a “revolutionary offensive to uproot non-socialist practices,” according to an English dispatch carried by the KCNA.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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