UN steps up sanctions on defiant North Korea

  • 13/09/2017
North Korea is facing increasing international pressure to cease nuclear testing.
North Korea is facing increasing international pressure to cease nuclear testing. Photo credit: Reuters.

The UN Security Council has unanimously voted to step up sanctions on North Korea, with its profitable textile exports now banned and fuel supplies capped, prompting a defiant threat of retaliation against the United States.

Monday's decision, triggered by the North's sixth and largest nuclear test this month, was the ninth such resolution unanimously adopted by the 15-member Security Council since 2006 over North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear programmes.

Japan and South Korea said after the passage of the US-drafted resolution that they were prepared to apply more pressure if North Korea refused to end its aggressive development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

A tougher initial US draft was weakened to win the support of China, Pyongyang's main ally and trading partner, and Russia, both of which hold veto power in the council.

US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, told a conference on Tuesday if China does not follow through on the new sanctions, "we will put additional sanctions on them and prevent them from accessing the US and international dollar system".

After the vote US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the North Korean regime has not yet passed the point of no return.

North Korea's ambassador, Han Tae Song, told the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Tuesday the United States was "fired up for political, economic, and military confrontation".

"The forthcoming measures by DPRK will make the US suffer the greatest pain it ever experienced in its history."

UN member states will halt imports of textiles from North Korea, its second largest export after coal and other minerals in 2016 that totalled $US752 million ($NZ 1.3 billion) and accounted for a quarter of its income from trade, according to South Korean data. Nearly 80 per cent went to China.

The resolution imposes a ban on condensates and natural gas liquids, a cap of 2 million barrels a year on refined petroleum products, and a cap on crude oil exports to North Korea at current levels. China supplies most of North Korea's crude.

Chinese officials have privately expressed fears that an oil embargo could risk causing massive instability in their neighbour. Russia and China have also expressed concern about the humanitarian impact of stiffer sanctions on North Korea.

In Geneva, Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, expressed hope for a peaceful solution, saying North Korea does not want to start a nuclear war and the world is not seeking to overthrow its leader Kim Jong Un.