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North Korea Crisis

UN mulls banning 90% of oil product exports to North Korea

US-backed Security Council resolution also targets machinery, workers

ARIANA KING, Nikkei staff writer | North Korea

UNITED NATIONS -- The Security Council is considering additional sanctions on North Korea over its continued development of proscribed nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles ahead of a vote expected to take place Friday afternoon.

The draft resolution, a copy of which was obtained by The Nikkei, would block the sale of crude oil to the North over 4 million barrels or 525,000 tons per year and ban nearly 90% of refined petroleum products from entering the country.

It would also ban imports of industrial equipment, machinery, transport vehicles and industrial metals, in addition to prohibiting North Korea from exporting food products, machinery, electrical equipment and earth and stone materials.

The draft also targets North Korea's exports of laborers -- a vital source of hard currency that is already subject to previous sanctions -- calling on member states to repatriate these workers within 12 months. Provisions on intercepting North Korean vessels would also be expanded, allowing for the seizure of ships thought to be violating sanctions.

'Pressure campaign'

The U.S., which drafted the resolution, has long sought to target the North's oil supply. At a high-level Security Council meeting on Dec. 15, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called in particular on Russia and China to ratchet up the pressure on Pyongyang beyond the level provided by current U.N. sanctions. "As Chinese crude oil flows to North Korean refineries, the U.S. questions China's commitment to solving an issue that has serious implications for the security of its own citizens," he said.

"The pressure campaign must and will continue until denuclearization is achieved," Tillerson said at the meeting.

China, which provides the North with most of its oil and which wields a veto as a permanent member of the council, did not take kindly to the U.S. suggestion that it was not doing enough.

"China has always supported and implemented comprehensively and strictly the Security Council resolutions on the DPRK," Chinese ambassador to the U.N. Wu Haitao said in remarks after Tillerson spoke, using an acronym for the North's official name -- the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "In so doing, China has made greater efforts and paid a higher price than anyone else. It is irresponsible to doubt or challenge what China has done," Wu said.

Speaking to reporters, the Japanese ambassador to the U.N., whose country holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council this month, expressed his support for the text and said he hopes to see it adopted.

Kairat Umarov, the U.N. ambassador from Kazakhstan, which will take over the presidency next month, suggested to a small group of reporters that "smart sanctions" could be effective at stemming North Korea's illegal weapons development. But he noted concerns about the humanitarian impact of economic sanctions on the civilian population. "We would like to see North Korea come to the negotiating table," Umarov added.

"And it's not only economic sanctions, it should be a much more comprehensive approach to that issue and of course we think that confidence-building measures are the most important part," Umarov said. "We need all the sides to come to the table and start working in good faith."

The draft resolution calls for the resumption of the six-party talks -- a format bringing North Korea together with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the U.S. -- and expresses commitment to a "peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation" but warns that the Security Council would place more restrictions on North Korea's petroleum supply in the event of additional nuclear or ballistic missile tests.

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