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North Korea sanctions

US calls for oil embargo against North Korea to bring Pyongyang to heel on its missile programme

US also demands asset freeze and travel ban for leader Kim Jong-un

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 September, 2017, 4:27am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 September, 2017, 5:05am

The United States wants the United Nations Security Council to impose an oil embargo on North Korea, ban the country’s exports of textiles and the hiring of North Korean labourers abroad and subject leader Kim Jong-un to an asset freeze and travel ban, according to a draft resolution seen on Wednesday.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has said she wants the 15-member council to vote on Monday on the draft resolution to impose new sanctions over North Korea’s sixth and largest nuclear test. However, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia has said a Monday vote may be “a little premature.”

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It was not immediately clear if the draft resolution had the support of North Korean ally China. Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted on Wednesday that resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis was impossible with sanctions and pressure alone.

A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the United States, Britain, France, Russia or China to be adopted.

Since 2006, the Security Council has unanimously adopted eight resolutions ratcheting up sanctions on North Korea over its ballistic missile and nuclear programmes. Haley said the incremental approach had not worked and a diplomatic solution could only be reached by imposing the strongest sanctions.

The new draft UN resolution would ban exports to North Korea of crude oil, condensate, refined petroleum products, and natural gas liquids.

China supplies most of North Korea’s crude. According to South Korean data, Beijing supplies roughly 500,000 tonnes of crude oil annually. It also exports 200,000 tonnes of oil products, according to UN data. Russia’s exports of crude oil to North Korea are about 40,000 tonnes a year.

The Security Council last month imposed new sanctions over North Korea’s two long-range missile launches in July. The August 5 resolution aimed to slash by a third Pyongyang’s US$3 billion annual export revenue by banning coal, iron, lead and seafood.

That resolution capped the number of North Koreans working abroad at the current level. The new draft resolution would impose a complete ban on the hiring and payment of North Korean labourers abroad.

Some diplomats estimate that between 60,000 and 100,000 North Koreans work abroad. A UN human rights investigator said in 2015 that North Korea was forcing more than 50,000 people to work abroad, mainly in Russia and China, earning between US$1.2 billion and US$2.3 billion a year.

The draft resolution would ban textiles, which were North Korea’s second-biggest export after coal and other minerals in 2016, totalling US$752 million, according to data from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA). Nearly 80 per cent of the textile exports went to China.

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The assets of military-controlled airline, Air Koryo, would be frozen if the draft resolution is adopted. It flies to Beijing and a few other cities in China, including Dandong, the main transit point for trade between the two countries. It also flies to Vladivostok in Russia.

Along with blacklisting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the draft resolution would also impose a travel ban and asset freeze on four other senior North Korean officials. The Worker’s Party of Korea and the government of North Korea would also be subjected to an asset freeze.