Tough sanctions expected for North Korea

The UN Security Council is expected to approve tough new sanctions against North Korea, say UN diplomats.

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UNITED NATIONS // The UN Security Council is expected to approve tough new sanctions against North Korea on Friday, UN diplomats said. The draft resolution, which would impose new sanctions on the reclusive communist nation's weapons exports and financial dealings, and allow inspections of suspect cargo in ports and on the high seas, was put in a final form late on Thursday. The council scheduled a meeting this morning to vote on it. The draft was hammered out during two weeks of closed-door negotiations by ambassadors from the five permanent Security Council nations - the United States, Britain and France and North Korea's allies, China and Russia - as well as the two countries most closely affected by the test, Japan and South Korea. It was given to the nine Security Council countries that were not part of the negotiations on Wednesday, and experts from all 15 council nations met yesterday to go over the text. With the five veto-wielding permanent members already on board, the resolution is certain to be adopted, most likely unanimously with a few minor changes to the text. The seven key nations began work on a new sanctions resolution a day after North Korea conducted its second underground nuclear test on May 25 in defiance of an earlier resolution adopted after its first test in October 2006. The new resolution is aimed at preventing North Korea from obtaining and exporting material and know-how to produce nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and from getting the money to finance the programme. Its likely adoption comes even as North Korea appears increasingly belligerent about possible sanctions. On Monday, Pyongyang's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper reiterated that the country will consider any sanctions a declaration of war and will respond with "due corresponding self-defence measures," and on Tuesday the country said it would use nuclear weapons in a "merciless offensive" if provoked. The provision most likely to anger the North Koreans calls on countries to inspect suspect cargo heading to or from North Korea on land, at airports and ports - and to stop ships carrying suspect material if the country whose flag the vessel is flying gives approval. If the country refuses to give approval, it must direct the vessel "to an appropriate and convenient port for the required inspection by the local authorities." The draft does not, however, authorise the use of military force, a demand by North Korean allies, China and Russia, that was also in the 2006 resolution. It would have the Security Council condemn "in the strongest terms" the May 25 nuclear test "in violation and flagrant disregard" of the 2006 sanctions resolution. It would also demand a halt to any further nuclear tests or missile launches and reiterate the council's demand that the North abandon all nuclear weapons, return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, allow UN nuclear inspections, and rejoin six-party talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear programme. The 2006 resolution imposed an arms embargo on heavy weapons, a ban on material that could be used in missiles or weapons of mass destruction and a ban on luxury goods favoured by North Korea's ruling elite. It also ordered an asset freeze and travel ban on companies and individuals involved in the country's nuclear and weapons programs. The new draft calls on the 192 UN member states to implement these measures and asks the council committee monitoring sanctions to designate additional companies and individuals within 30 days that could face an asset freeze and travel ban. It would also expand the arms embargo, banning North Korea from exporting all weapons - which would eliminate a significant source of revenue for the country - and banning the import of all arms except light weapons.