US softens North Korea resolution ahead of UN vote

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council was scheduled to vote on Monday on a draft resolution imposing new sanctions on North Korea after the United States toned down its demands in a bid to win support from Russia and China.
Washington has led the international drive to punish the rogue state after it detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear device earlier this month.
The vote was to be held at 6 pm (2200 GMT), the Ethiopian council presidency said.
The United had originally pushed for a strict oil embargo, as well as a freeze on the assets of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
A new draft text circulated late on Sunday maintains an embargo on gas but would limit sales of oil to 500,000 barrels for three months from October 1 and 2 million barrels from January 1 for a period of 12 months, according to the text obtained by this agency.
Kim spared: Kim would be spared from a UN blacklist that would have hit him with an assets freeze and a travel ban and punished him directly for the country’s military drive.
The proposed resolution, however, would slap a ban on textile exports from North Korea, but drop demands for a full halt to payments of North Korea workers.
It would add the name of North Korean senior official Pak Yong Sik, who helps direct the country’s missile industries, to the blacklist along with three other North Korean agencies.
Among other concessions the new text also softens the inspection by force of ships suspected of carrying cargo prohibited by the UN and drops a proposed assets freeze on the state-owned Air Koryo airline.
Britain and France — permanent veto-wielding Security Council members along with the US, China and Russia — have given Washington their strong backing.
The North’s two main backers, they are wary of anything that might force the collapse of the regime and the resulting exodus of refugees.
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) says estimates suggest Pyongyang imports about 10,000 barrels of crude oil a day, almost all of it from China.
“We have been clear in close consultation with the Americans that oil has to be included as an element of sanctions,” South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-Wha told reporters.
Economic pressure: Whatever final text was adopted, she hoped it would “have significant consequences in terms of greater economic pressure on North Korea.”
Washington has dangled the prospect of military action in the North, and threatened to cut economic ties with countries that continue to trade with the it — around 90 per cent of the North’s external commerce is with China. — AFP