UN Security Council to vote Friday on new North Korea sanctions

To pass, a resolution needs at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un presides over a target strike exercise conducted by the special operation forces of the Korean People's Army (KPA) at an undisclosed location. Picture: AFP

UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations Security Council is due to vote on Friday on a US-drafted resolution that seeks to toughen sanctions on North Korea in response to its latest intercontinental ballistic missile launch, diplomats said.

The draft, seen by Reuters on Thursday, seeks to ban nearly 90 percent of refined petroleum product exports to North Korea by capping them at 500,000 barrels a year and demand the repatriation of North Koreans working abroad within 12 months.

It would also cap crude oil supplies to North Korea at 4 million barrels a year. The United States has been calling on China to limit its oil supply to its neighbour and ally.

The text was circulated to the 15-member council on Thursday. While it was not immediately clear how China would vote, traditionally a draft on North Korea is not given to all members until it is agreed by Beijing and Washington.

The United States has been negotiating with China on the draft resolution for the past week, diplomats said. If adopted, it would be the 10th resolution imposing new sanctions on North Korea over its missile and nuclear programs since 2006.

To pass, a resolution needs at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

The United States late last month warned North Korea’s leadership it would be “utterly destroyed” if war were to break out after Pyongyang test-fired its most advanced missile, putting the U.S. mainland within range.

During a speech on Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “stressed that nobody can deny the entity of the DPRK which rapidly emerged as a strategic state capable of posing a substantial nuclear threat to the US,” according to North Korea’s official KCNA news agency.

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

UN political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman visited Pyongyang earlier this month - the first senior UN official to do so since 2011 - and said North Korean officials did not commit to talks, but he believes he left “the door ajar.”

The US-drafted resolution repeats previous language by reaffirming the council’s “support for the Six Party Talks, calls for their resumption.” So-called six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program stalled in 2008.

In a bid to further choke North Korea’s external sources of funding, the draft resolution also seeks to ban North Korean exports of food products, machinery, electrical equipment, earth and stone, including magnesite and magnesia; wood; and vessels.

It would ban exports to North Korea of industrial equipment, machinery, transportation vehicles, and industrial metals.

The draft resolution would subject 19 new North Koreans and the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces to a global asset freeze and travel ban.

It also seeks to allow countries to seize, inspect and freeze any vessel in their ports or territorial waters that they believe was carrying banned cargo or involved in prohibited activities.

Separately, China and Russia on Thursday asked for more time to consider a US proposal to blacklist 10 ships for transporting banned items from North Korea, diplomats said. It was unclear how much more time would be given.

The vessels are accused of “conducting illegal ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products to North Korean vessels or illegally transporting North Korean coal to other countries for exports,” the United States said in its proposal.

Countries are required to ban blacklisted ships from entering their ports. The council’s North Korea sanctions committee in October designated four ships as banned for carrying coal from North Korea.