UN members agree on sanctions resolution against North Korea

Key members of the United Nations Security Council agreed Wednesday to impose new sanctions on North Korea to protest a spate of missile tests carried out recently by the country.

Key members of the United Nations Security Council agreed Wednesday to impose new sanctions on North Korea to counter a spate of missile tests carried out recently by the country.

The member countries have agreed to the wording of a resolution draft that imposes the sanctions, according to diplomats.

Six members of the council — Britain, China, France, Russia, United States and Japan — along with UN member South Korea, will present the draft to the full 15-member Security Council panel for a vote later this week, an unnamed diplomat told the Agence France-Presse news agency. He requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. 

Given the resolution has the backing of the powerful permanent Security Council members, it is unlikely to be voted down by other members.

The draft document was a "very strong" response to North Korea's nuclear test, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, told reporters after a meeting of the Security Council. 

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

Financial restrictions

The resolution urges — but stops short of requiring — countries to reduce financial ties with the government in Pyongyang. Security Council nations and international financial institutions are asked "not to enter into new commitments for grants, financial assistance, or concessional loans to [North Korea], except for humanitarian and developmental purposes."

The resolution also calls on member countries not to engage in any financial transactions with North Korea if they believe the money can be put toward nuclear- or missile-related programs.

It denounces North Korea's nuclear and ballistic tests and demands a moratorium on further such activity.

The resolution extends a ban on exports of tanks, artillery and other large arms by North Korea — only small arms are exempt. That measure would cut off a significant source of revenue to the country, Rice said.

All 192 UN member nations are urged to inspect cargo vessels at sea or airports if they believe the contents may be used to advance Pyongyang's nuclear or ballistic programs.

China, Russia initially reluctant

The resolution comes after two weeks of closed-door meetings between the seven countries on what to do about the North Korea issue.

While the United States and Japan were outspoken in their support of tough new sanctions, China and Russia were less enthusiastic, as they were leery of provoking Pyongyang.

Russia and China both have veto power over any resolutions voted on by the Security Council.

The resulting document, Western diplomats told Reuters, was a watered-down version of what was an initially strict set of measures to be levied against North Korea.

North Korea has been flexing its military muscle in recent months. On Monday, Pyongyang's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the country will consider any sanctions a declaration of war and will respond with "due corresponding self-defence measures."

On Tuesday, North Korea said it would use nuclear weapons in a "merciless offensive" if provoked.

North Korean scientists had conducted an underground nuclear test on May 24 that drew swift condemnation from the international community. That was the second test since 2006.

And in April, North Korea tested a long-range rocket over Japan.

North Korea has been under UN sanctions that bar it from nuclear and ballistic activity since its first atomic test in 2006. But those sanctions have been poorly enforced and largely ignored, particularly after North Korea showed a willingness to participate in talks toward disarmament.

North Korea subsequently rejected those talks, which was part of the impetus behind the new resolution.