China Agrees to Sanctions Targeting N. Korean Diplomats

North Korea and its ruling elite are facing additional sanctions after the U.S. and China agreed on a United Nations Security Council resolution punishing the Communist nation for its February nuclear test explosion.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice announced the agreement yesterday after a meeting of the council, which plans to adopt the measure with a vote later this week. Russia, which like China has veto-power, also supports the sanctions, Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said in comments reported by the RIA news agency.

The new measures target an array of regime activities including “illicit” actions by its diplomats and bulk transfers of cash. The restrictions are aimed at halting the North’s imports of technology for its weapons programs as well as its ability to raise cash by selling its nuclear, missile and military technology.

“Those sanctions will bite, but the key is how far China is willing to go to implement them -- always a problem,” Michael Green, senior vice president for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, wrote in an e-mail. “Still, this is better than the usual Security Council ‘round up the usual suspects’ response we have generally seen in the past.”

China is North Korea’s closest ally and its support was necessary for approval of additional UN sanctions. North Korea held its nuclear test despite pressure from China not to do so.

‘Next Level’

The resolution “takes UN sanctions imposed on North Korea to the next level,” Rice told reporters at the UN. “The commitment to take further significant measures in the event of further tests will demonstrate clearly to North Korea the cost of its provocations.”

The sanctions cover actions from tightening scrutiny of North Korean diplomats and business agents to blocking transfers of luxury items for the regime’s elite, such as racing cars, yachts and jewelry containing pearls or gems, according to a copy of the resolution obtained by Bloomberg News.

The measure also includes provisions on financial transactions, cargo inspections, aircraft movements, and a commitment to take “further significant measures” if North Korea conducts more nuclear or missile tests in violation of council prohibitions.

The sanctions would be some of the toughest ever imposed by the UN policymaking body, according to a diplomat who asked not to be identified because the resolution hasn’t been adopted.

North Korean Threat

North Korea said yesterday it may cancel the 1953 cease-fire that ended the Korean War, citing the sanctions effort as well as U.S.-South Korean joint military drills, according to a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The North Korean military will suspend its activities at Panmunjom truce village at the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea, and shut off phone line with U.S. forces stationed in the South, the news agency said, citing an unidentified military spokesman.

As the North’s largest neighbor, China’s support is critical for enforcing the sanctions, and the Chinese are likely to take a hard line, said Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington.

“The nuclear test, coupled with the successful three-stage rocket tests gives North Korea real potential to build a nuclear ICBM,” an intercontinental ballistic missile, “causing all the countries in the region to worry about the consequences,” Cronin said in an interview.

Chinese Message

China’s UN Ambassador Li Baodong said he was pleased with the result of the Security Council talks, which he said made clear to North Korea that the international community wants to remove nuclear arms from the Korean peninsula and see an end to the North’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

“A strong signal must be sent out that a nuclear test is against the will of the international community,” Li said after the council session. “They have got to bring an end to that program.”

China is growing increasingly concerned by both the independent behavior of the country’s new ruler, 30-year-old Kim Jong Un, and by fears that instability in North Korea may lead to a flood of refugees across the border into China, said Dean Cheng, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

“China is frustrated and is sending a signal that Kim Jong Un has gone too far,” Cheng said in an interview.

‘Legitimate Dialogue’

After months of resisting new sanctions on North Korea, China may have agreed to the sanctions as part of a push for the U.S. to grant it new diplomatic respect in the region, as China seeks to expand its economic and political influence while keeping peace with neighboring South Korea and Japan, said Cronin.

In Doha, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for North Korea’s Kim to take “responsible actions for peace” rather than make threats.

“The world would be better served if he would direct his people, and make a decision himself, to engage in a legitimate dialogue in legitimate negotiations in order to resolve not just American concerns, but the concerns of the Japanese, the South Koreans, the Russians and everybody in the region,” Kerry said yesterday at a news conference.

“We will continue to do what is necessary to defend our nation and the region, together with our allies, but our preference is not to brandish threats at each other,” Kerry said. “It is to get to the table and negotiate a peaceful resolution.”

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