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UN imposes strongest sanctions yet on N. Korea

November 30, 2016

The United Nations has imposed its toughest sanctions regime yet on North Korea over a September nuclear test. Repeated sanctions have done little to halt North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

Südkorea TV-Programm Atomtest Nordkorea
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to impose further tough sanctions on North Korea in response to a September nuclear test, the second round of sanctions to target the country this year.

The highly technical resolution, which was reached after three months of talks between the United States and China, targets North Korea's foreign exchange earnings and seeks to close loopholes in the existing sanctions regime.  

The new measures target North Korea's exports of coal, capping an export that accounts for about a third of the nation's economy by an estimated $800 million (755 million euros). The sanctions also target the export of several metals, including copper, silver, zinc and nickel, that earn the country some $100 million a year.

The resolution further restricts the export of statues, which North Korea has mostly sent to Africa. One ordered by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe for $5 million is to be erected after his death. The resolution also forbids North Korea from exporting helicopters.

The latest sanctions - the sixth round since 2006 and the second this year after a separate nuclear test in March - clarifies a "livelihood" exemption that allowed Chinese firms, some with hidden ties to North Korean businessmen, to continue exports.

The clarification said the exemption was meant only to protect the livelihood of people living in North Korea, not Chinese companies or people doing business with the country.

Infografik Chronologie von Nordkoreas Atomtests

North Korea is already the most heavily sanctioned country in the world, but repeated world action has done little to stop its nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions.

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power called the resolution "the strongest sanctions regime the Security Council has imposed on any country in more than a generation." Yet, she warned that it was ultimately up to member states to implement the sanctions.

"With sustained international pressure, it is possible to change North Korea's calculus," Power said. "The strength of this resolution and our ability to change North Korea's threatening, belligerent behavior depends on member states exercising maximum vigilance to enforce each and every one of the provisions in today's resolution."

China, a close ally of North Korea and major trade partner, said the sanctions struck a balance between punishing its neighbor while refraining from inflicting further suffering on its people.

"The resolution adopted by the council today demonstrates the uniform stand of the international community against the development by DPRK of its nuclear missile programs and forward the maintenance of the international non-proliferation regime," China's UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi said.

China has often provided diplomatic cover for North Korea at the UN, fearful that the collapse of Kim Jong-Un's regime could lead to chaos. However, Beijing has increasingly become frustrated by its neighbor's continued nuclear tests.

China's UN ambassador also took a swipe at the United States, criticizing its joint exercises with South Korea and plans to deploy an anti-missile system to the peninsula. "Certain parties increase their military presence and scale up military exercises, thus intensifying the confrontation," he said at the Council.  "This situation must be changed as soon as possible."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is eying entering politics in his native South Korea after stepping down as the world's top diplomat at the end of the year, called on all countries to enforce the resolution.

"It sends an unequivocal message that the DPRK must cease further provocative actions and comply fully with its international obligations," said Ban.

Japan's Ambassador Koro Bessho said he hoped the latest round of sanctions would bring North Korea back to negotiations.

"We are introducing the sanctions, not for the sake of introducing sanctions, but in order to change the course of DPRK policy. If the DPRK shows commitment to denuclearization, serious commitment and concrete actions, we are certainly ready to come into dialogue with them and try to solve the situation," Bessho said.

The resolution places sanctions on several individuals in the North Korean regime. It also takes the unprecedented step of warning Pyongyang that further violations of UN resolutions may result in restrictions on some of its rights in the world body.

cw/gsw (AFP, AP, dpa)