Further UN sanctions to punish North Korea for its nuclear test last month have been drafted by the US and China, say UN diplomats. Russia, which chairs Tuesday's UN Security Council session, has signaled its backing.
Diplomats at the UN in New York speaking anonymously said on Tuesday that the US and Chinese representatives had struck a tentative deal to strengthen sanctions adopted after North Korea's 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.
A vote on such a draft resolution was due by the end of the week, they said.
The Interfax news agency quoted Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov as saying that the draft "will be acceptable to us if the restrictive measures do not go beyond the boundaries of missile and nuclear issues."
North Korea defied the UN by launching a long-range rocket in December and then staging a third nuclear test last month, claiming it was an act of self-defense against "US hostility." That prompted a condemnatory Security Council resolution last month.
Sanctions already in place include a ban on weapons exports by North Korea, shipment inspections, bans on luxury imports, as well as asset freezes and travel bans on 9 individuals and 17 North Korean banks and trading entities.
'Progress' on draft, says SKorea
In Seoul, South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-Young told reporters that "considerable progress" had been made in New York on a draft sanctions resolution.
"But no full agreement has been reached yet," Cho added.
Ahead of the council's closed-door meeting at 11 a.m. (1600 GMT) under Russian presidency, diplomats said the US ambassador Sue Rice and been in talks on the resolution wording with her Chinese counterpart, Li Baodong.
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China supported an "appropriate response" from the UN Security Council, but added that it had to be "prudent and moderate" to encourage denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, but not a peace treaty, between North Korea and the US. The US currently has about 28,500 of its troops deployed in South Korea to protect its ally. Seoul and Washington have repeatedly said they have no intention of attacking the North.
ipj/mkg (AP, Reuters, AFP)