UN imposes toughest sanctions on N. Korea
UNITED NATIONS—The UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously approved the toughest sanctions on North Korea in two decades, reflecting growing anger at Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test and rocket launch in defiance of a ban on all nuclear-related activity.
Hours later, North Korea fired six short-range projectiles into the sea, in a move seen as a “low-level” response to the UN sanctions.
The US state department said it had seen reports of the launches on Thursday and was monitoring the situation.
The United States and China, North Korea’s traditional ally, spent seven weeks negotiating the new sanctions, which include mandatory inspections of cargo leaving and entering North Korea by land, sea or air; a ban on all sales or transfers of small arms and light weapons to Pyongyang; and expulsion of diplomats from the North who engage in “illicit activities.”
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) will carry out the first inspection involving a North Korean freighter, the general cargo ship Jin Teng, which berthed in the Subic Bay port in Olongapo, Zambales province, on Thursday.
The PCG-National Capital Region said in an e-mailed statement to Reuters that a team was preparing to board the North Korean vessel.
A team of three or four coast guards would go aboard the Jin Teng to inspect crew and ship’s documents, a Coast Guard commander who declined to be identified said.
The United States, its Western allies and Japan pressed for new sanctions that went beyond the North’s nuclear and missile programs but China was reluctant to impose measures that could threaten the stability of the neighboring country and cause its economy to collapse.
Nonetheless, Beijing did agree to several measures aimed at shutting down financing for nuclear and missile programs.
“The international community, speaking with one voice, has sent Pyongyang a simple message: North Korea must abandon these dangerous programs and choose a better path for its people,” US President Barack Obama said in a statement.
North Korea started off the new year with what it claims was its first hydrogen bomb test on Jan. 6 and launched a satellite on a rocket on Feb. 7. The launch was condemned by much of the world as a test of banned missile technology.
North Korea ignored the chance to address the Security Council and a spokesperson for the country’s UN mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But South Korea’s defense ministry said North Korea fired several short-range projectiles into the sea on Thursday, just hours after the sanctions were approved.
Pyongyang’s launches also came shortly after Seoul approved its first legislation on human rights in North Korea.
The South Korean bill’s passage came ahead of the Security Council’s approval of the sanctions.
Moon Sang-gyun, spokesperson for South Korea’s defense ministry, said the projectiles were fired from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan, and authorities were trying to determine whether the projectiles were missiles, artillery or rockets.
On Monday, the official KCNA news agency published a commentary saying “it is nothing but a pipe dream for the US to expect the DPRK to collapse due to ‘sanctions.’ This is as foolish as waiting the missions of the sun and stars to come to an end.”
DPRK are the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
China, Russia and others expressed hope on Wednesday that the sanctions will lead to the immediate resumption of six-party talks aimed at the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
North Korea withdrew from the talks in 2008.
The resolution bans the export of coal, iron and iron ore being used to fund North Korea’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs but not for general economic use.
It prohibits all exports of gold, titanium ore, vanadium ore and rare earth minerals and bans aviation fuel exports to the country, including “kerosene-type rocket fuel.”
US Ambassador Samantha Power said it had been estimated that the DPRK earned approximately $1 billion annually from coal—a third of its export income—and at least $200 million a year from iron ore exports.
In the financial and banking sector, countries are required to freeze the assets of companies and other entities linked to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
The resolution also prohibits all countries from opening new branches, subsidiaries and representative offices of North Korean banks, and bans financial institutions from establishing new joint ventures or establishing or maintaining correspondent relationships with these banks.
It orders countries to close all North Korean banks and terminate all banking relationships within 90 days.
The resolution stresses that the new measures are not intended to have “adverse humanitarian consequences” for civilians, the majority of whom face economic hardships and food shortages.
Power said that “part of the perverse reality that has no equal in this world” is that North Korea prioritizes its nuclear and ballistic missile programs over the basic needs of its own people.
South Korea’s UN Ambassador Oh Joon said North Korea’s six missile tests and four nuclear tests, according to some estimates, had cost at least $4 billion.
Meanwhile, he said, the United Nations is spending a little over $100 million annually on humanitarian aid to the country.
“It pains all of us to think about how the regime has been developing weapons while people were starving, how the human potential has been wasted away in North Korea,” Oh said.
Under the previous four rounds of UN sanctions imposed since the country’s first nuclear test in 2006, North Korea is banned from importing or exporting nuclear or missile items and technology as well as luxury goods.
The new resolution expands the list of banned items, adding luxury items such as expensive watches, snowmobiles, recreational water vehicles and sports equipment, and lead crystal.
It also adds 16 individuals, 12 “entities” including the National Aerospace Development Agency, which was responsible for February’s rocket launch, and 31 ships owned by the North Korean shipping firm Ocean Maritime Management Co. to the sanctions blacklist. That requires the freezing of assets and, in the case of individuals, a travel ban as well.
Initially there were 17 individuals on the list, but diplomats said Russia insisted on dropping Jang Song-chol, the Russia representative of the Korea Mining Development Trading Corp. An annex to the resolution on “Items, Materials, Equipment, Goods and Technology” that can be used in missile and nuclear activities was also eliminated at Russia’s insistence, diplomats said.
The resolution also bans Pyongyang from chartering vessels or aircraft, and calls on countries to “deregister” any vessel owned, operated or crewed by the North.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.