The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously in favour of new tough sanctions on North Korea that will cut oil supplies vital for Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear programs.
The resolution was drafted by the United States in response to last month’s test-firing of a ballistic missile said to be capable of reaching the US mainland.
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Nearly 90 per cent of refined petroleum product exports to North Korea would be banned under the resolution, with a cap of 500,000 barrels a year.
In what diplomats said was a last-minute change, the resolution also demands the repatriation of North Koreans working abroad within 24 months, instead of 12 months as first proposed.
Crude oil supplies to North Korea would also be capped at 4 million barrels a year. The US has been calling on China to limit its oil supply to its neighbour and ally.
The Security Council voted 15 to 0 to pass the resolution, Japan’s ambassador to the UN said. Japan holds the presidency of the Security Council this month.
On November 29 North Korea said it successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile in a “breakthrough” that puts the US mainland within range of its nuclear weapons whose warheads could withstand re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere.
“It [the resolution] sends the unambiguous message to Pyongyang that further defiance will invite further punishments and isolation,” US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said after the vote.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop welcomed the tighter sanctions, saying they impose significant costs on North Korea and will further restrict Pyongyang’s ability to fund and operate its weapons programs.
“The resolution also strengthens provisions relating to maritime interdiction of cargo vessels within Member States’ territorial waters,” she said.
“Australia encourages all members of the international community to fully implement the UN Security Council resolutions.”
Cap on oil ‘would be devastating’
Speaking before the Security Council vote, analysts said the new sanctions could have a major effect on the North’s economy.
“If they were enforced, the cap on oil would be devastating for North Korea’s haulage industry, for North Koreans who use generators at home or for productive activities, and for [state-owned enterprises] that do the same,” said Peter Ward, a columnist for NK News, a website that tracks North Korea.
The forced repatriation of foreign workers would also cut off vital sources of foreign currency and investment not only for the Government but also for North Korea’s emerging market economy, he said.
“If such sanctions were enforced, they would thus impede and endanger North Korea’s economic development,” he added.
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Tensions have been rising over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, which it pursues in defiance of years of UN Security Council resolutions, with bellicose rhetoric coming from both Pyongyang and the White House.
In November, North Korea called for a halt to what it called “brutal sanctions”, saying a previous round imposed after its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3 constituted genocide.
US diplomats have made clear they are seeking a diplomatic solution but have proposed new, tougher sanctions to ratchet up pressure on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.