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Politics

UN Security Council clamps down on North Korea with new sanctions

China and Russia sign off on further restricting oil and exports, call out US tactics

UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Friday to implement new measures restricting North Korea's oil supply, exports and overseas labor program in response to last month's test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

"The unity this council has shown in leveling these unprecedented sanctions is a reflection of the international outrage at the Kim regime's actions," U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said in remarks to the Security Council after the vote, in reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Building on numerous rounds of sanctions, the new resolution caps Pyongyang's already restricted access to refined petroleum products at 500,000 barrels a year and limits crude oil to 4 million barrels or 525,000 tons per year. According to Haley, this would mean an 89% total reduction in imports of gasoline, diesel and other refined products.

Additional limits would be placed on oil in the event of another nuclear or ballistic missile test, the resolution says.

The text also bans imports of industrial equipment, machinery, transport vehicles and industrial metals, as well as exports of food, minerals, machinery and electrical equipment. When taken with the ban on other lucrative exports, including seafood and textiles, the resolution is expected to cut off the country's final $200 million-plus in annual export revenue.

Repatriation of North Korean workers

Among the North's biggest money-making tactics is its overseas labor program, which sends workers abroad to countries like Russia and China while pocketing a large chunk of laborers' remittances. Adding to the previous resolution's freeze on the issuance of new work permits, the latest resolution requires countries to repatriate such laborers no later than 24 months after it is adopted. An earlier draft of the text provided for the return of such laborers within 12 months.

Speaking to reporters after the vote, Japan's ambassador to the U.N., Koro Bessho, said: "What we're trying to do is to show the unity of the international community in saying no to their development and that needs to come with pressure." The remarks came as Japan closes out its December stint as president of the Security Council.

Russian Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov criticized the U.S., which drafted the text, for its efforts to push the document through without following proper procedure, arguing that changes were still being made to the text minutes before its adoption. He noted the change to the time frame for the return of North Korean laborers, calling the 24-month deadline the "minimum acceptable period."

The text reflected a number of Russian concerns, including one particular provision explicitly exempting the export of Russian-sourced coal from North Korea's port of Rajin from the pre-existing ban on North Korean coal exports. Yet Moscow still had a number of grievances.

"We proposed reasonable and realistic alternatives to the ultimatums-based logic of sanctions," Safronkov said. He cited the Russo-Chinese suspension-for-suspension proposal which would call for a freeze on North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic missile testing in exchange for a stop to U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises.

"Isolation and pressure must give way to dialogue and talks," Safronkov said.

China, which was in direct negotiations with the U.S. on the text, likewise called for a political and diplomatic resolution to the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Beijing's U.N. ambassador Wu Haitao criticized both Pyongyang's weapons testing and the joint military exercises between Washington and Seoul, and suggested that "it is imperative to put an immediate end to all the rhetoric" that is detrimental to the process of denuclearization.

Wu also noted China's hard work on this front, a likely response to the common claim from Washington that Beijing is not doing enough to confront its neighbor. "China has made enormous efforts to push for settlement through dialogue and negotiations and has paid a price higher than all the other parties for the purpose of implementing the council's resolutions," Wu said.

"If the situation on the peninsula is allowed to stay in the current vicious cycle the road will be narrower and narrower," Wu said. "Only by meeting each other halfway and through dialogue and consultations, can a peaceful settlement be found."

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