Sunday, August 20, 2017

Diplomat: $1 billion in NKorea exports would be banned by UN

In this July 28, 2017, file photo distributed by the North Korean government on Saturday, July 29, 2017, shows what was said to be the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile at an undisclosed location in North Korea.

AP LogoBY EDITH M. LEDERER

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A proposed new U.N. sanctions resolution would significantly increase economic pressure on North Korea to return to negotiations on its nuclear and missile programs by banning mineral and seafood exports worth about $1 billion — a third of its total exports last year, a Security Council diplomat said Friday.

The diplomat, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said the draft resolution would also ban countries from giving any additional permits to North Korean laborers — another source of money for Kim Jong Un’s regime. And it would prohibit all new joint ventures with North Korean companies, and ban new foreign investment in existing joint ventures.

The proposed new sanctions follow North Korea’s first successful tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States last month. The Security Council has already imposed six rounds of sanctions that have failed to halt North Korea’s drive to improve its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons capabilities.

The United States drafted the initial resolution and spent several weeks negotiating the text with China, North Korea’s neighbor and ally. The diplomat said the resolution has been discussed with experts from all 15 Security Council nations and will likely be put in a final form later Friday, hopefully with a vote “imminently.”

The diplomat called it the “most impactful and expansive set of sanctions to date” and said the resolution is expected to be approved unanimously.

Agreement on the draft follows U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments Wednesday reassuring North Korea that Washington isn’t seeking regime change or an accelerated reunification of the Korean Peninsula — comments welcomed by China’s foreign minister. Tillerson also said the U.S. wants to talk eventually with North Korea, but doesn’t think discussions would be productive if the North comes with the intention of maintaining its nuclear weapons.

The draft resolution reiterates language in previous Security Council resolutions supporting a return to six-party talks with the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, the diplomat said.

While the draft resolution would impose biting economic sanctions, the U.S. didn’t get everything it wanted.

In early July, U..S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the Security Council that if it was united, the international community could cut off major sources of hard currency to North Korea, restrict oil to its military and weapons programs, increase air and maritime restrictions, and hold senior officials accountable.

The diplomat said oil was not included in the draft resolution and neither are new air restrictions.

But the draft resolution would ban all exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood.

According to the diplomat, coal has been North Korea’s largest export, earning $1.2 billion last year which then restricted by the Security Council to a maximum $400 million. This year, Pyongyang was estimated to earn $251 million from iron and iron ore exports, $113 million from lead and lead ore exports, and $295 million from seafood exports, the diplomat said.

That total’s over $1 billion. It’s unclear exactly how much money North Korea earns from sending workers overseas but in 2015 the U.N. special investigator on human rights in North Korea, Marzuki Darusman, estimated it was earning between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion annually. Under the draft, countries would be unable to hire any new North Korean workers.

The proposed resolution would also add additional individuals and entities to the U.N. sanctions blacklist including the Foreign Trade Bank, which the diplomat said is “a very critical clearing house for foreign exchange.”

A provision in the draft resolution asks the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea to ban the import of many more so-called “dual-use items” that have commercial use but can also be used in conventional weapons or biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, the diplomat said.

The draft resolution would also give a green light for the committee to designate specific vessels that are breaking sanctions from entering ports all over the world, and to work with INTERPOL to enforce travel bans on North Koreans on the sanctions blacklist.

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