Thursday, June 11, 2009

UN Council set to expand N Korea sanctions

Updated at: 0728 PST, Thursday, June 11, 2009

The UN Security Council is set to vote on a draft resolution expanding sanctions on North Korea after it carried out a second nuclear test.

According to a draft leaked on Wednesday, the UN resolution would extend an arms embargo on Pyongyang, further limit its financial dealings and authorise searches of ships suspected of carrying weapons and nuclear materials.

The US-drafted resolution also bans the supply of fuel to North Korean vessels carrying cargo that might be a violation of UN trade and arms embargoes against Pyongyang, media reports said.

The UN Security Council was discussing the draft at a closed meeting after the five permanent members - the US, UK, China, Russia and France - and Japan and South Korea agreed the text of draft.

The resolution would also allow member states who suspect ships carrying suspect material to North Korea to direct the vessels to "an appropriate and convenient port for the required inspection by the local authorities".

A vote on the resolution could come as early as Friday.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, described the draft as a "strong response" to North Korea's nuclear test.

"This sanctions regime, if passed by the Security Council, will bite, and bite in a meaningful way," Rice said.

She added that a total ban on North Korean arms exports, as called for in the draft, would cut off a significant source of revenue for Pyongyang.

Tensions have risen in recent weeks after North Korea carried out a nuclear test, launched missiles and threatened to attack South Korea.

The US and Japan have pushed for strong sanctions to punish North Korea, but China and Russia had been cautious, apparently nervous about provoking Pyongyang.

Al Jazeera's John Terrett in New York said frantic negotiations had taken place over the last two weeks aimed at convincing Russia and China to back the expanded sanctions against North Korea.

The two nations had refused to back a draft that required searches of North Korean ships suspected of carrying weapons material, and instead agreed to a call for searches.

North Korea warned on Wednesday it would use its weapons if provoked – an apparent effort to deter international punishment for its test of a nuclear device last month

"Our nuclear deterrent will be a strong defensive means ... as well as a merciless offensive means to deal a just retaliatory strike to those who touch the country's dignity and sovereignty even a bit," said a commentary in the state-run Mink Jason newspaper.

North Korea launched a long-range missile in April, triggering condemnation from the UN Security Council.

Pyongyang then announced on May 25 that it had staged a second nuclear weapons test, following one in 2006.

It also has declared the armistice ending the 1950-53 Korean War was void.

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