U.S. Is Said to Seek a Ban on Crude Oil to North Korea at UN

Updated on
  • U.S. needs Chinese, Russian support for new UN restrictions
  • Russian leader says oil sanctions could hurt ordinary people

President Trump Talks N. Korea With China's Xi

The U.S. is circulating a draft resolution at the United Nations that would bar crude oil shipments to North Korea, ban the nation’s exports of textiles and prohibit employment of its guest workers by other countries, according to a diplomat at the world body.

The proposal, which also calls for freezing the assets of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has been circulated to the 15 members of the Security Council, according to the diplomat, who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations. The U.S. has said it wants the council to take up tougher sanctions at a meeting Sept. 11.

The bid for the toughest penalties yet against North Korea comes despite renewed warnings against such moves by the leaders of China and Russia, which have veto power in the Security Council. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke for 45 minutes Wednesday amid Pyongyang’s stepped-up pace of nuclear and missile tests.

“We will not be putting up with what’s happening in North Korea,” Trump told reporters Wednesday after the conversation. The two leaders had a “very, very frank and very strong call,” he added. Asked about possible U.S. military action, the president said “That’s not our first choice, but we’ll see what happens.”

There remain questions over how far the Security Council will go in punishing Kim’s regime after North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sunday. Russia and China have opposed doing anything that could lead to the collapse of Kim’s regime. Analysts have said China may only agree to a partial or temporary oil exports ban.

Missile Shield

Tensions are also set to rise between China and South Korea with Seoul moving Thursday to deploy more launchers for a U.S. defense shield known as Thaad. Four launchers have arrived at Seongju military base despite opposition by residents and activists, Yonhap News reported. China has angrily opposed its neighbor having Thaad, saying it could upset the security balance in the region and be used against Beijing’s own missile systems.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meanwhile has expressed concern that halting oil supplies to North Korea would hurt its people. Putin’s comments followed a request from South Korean President Moon Jae-in he support more stringent UN sanctions.

“Stopping oil supply to North Korea is inevitable,” Moon’s spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, quoted him as saying. “I’m asking for Russia’s cooperation.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Russia’s Vladimir Putin speak about North Korea.

(Source: Bloomberg)

Putin told Moon that sanctions won’t work and halting its oil supply would damage hospitals, foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said after the meeting, echoing the Russian leader’s earlier remarks that such action would be “useless and ineffective.” On Tuesday, Putin told reporters that Russia’s trade with North Korea is “almost zero.”

“The next round of sanctions are about the economic strangulation of North Korea, and Russia and China are going to resist that,” said Patrick Cronin, senior director for Asia-Pacific security issues at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. “But sanctions are only one facet. We have diplomatic options, and military ones like force enhancement and placing strategic forces in the area that will get Beijing and Pyongyang’s attention.”

Read more: Here Are the Options for Dealing With North Korea

Trump has warned North Korea of “fire and fury” if it continues threatening the U.S. He has also threatened to cut off trade with all countries that do business with North Korea. China is North Korea’s biggest trading partner.

Top administration officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, briefed members of Congress on the crisis Wednesday. Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, said their message focused on a “diplomacy-first strategy” despite Trump’s harder line rhetoric.

“Every UN Security Council resolution is an incremental step forward because of Chinese resistance, said Bruce Klingner, a Korean specialist at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “What we have is incremental law enforcement because we get what China allows us to have.”

In talks with Putin, Moon said it was time for the UN to seriously consider blocking North Korea’s foreign-currency sources by cutting off crude oil supplies and banning its overseas labor.

“If we fail to stop North Korea’s provocations now, it could sink into an uncontrollable situation,” Moon said in remarks before the meeting.

Putin called for all sides to calm down. “There’s no point in giving into emotions and backing North Korea into a corner,” he said. “More than ever now we need to show restraint and avoid any steps that could escalate tensions.”

“They’ll eat grass, but they won’t abandon their program unless they feel secure,” Putin told reporters Tuesday at an emerging-markets summit in China.

North Korea has reportedly been preparing another launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could come before it marks the anniversary of its founding on Sept. 9. Kim claimed on Sunday that he could fit a warhead onto an ICBM capable of striking the continental U.S.

China has been considering closing a customs post along its border with North Korea, according to the Daily NK, a Seoul-based website that says it gathers information from informants inside the isolated nation. The Quanhe customs house in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, near the Russian border, is the second-biggest of nine posts between China and North Korea.

— With assistance by Keith Zhai, Ilya Arkhipov, Justin Sink, David Tweed, Ting Shi, Terrence Dopp, Nick Wadhams, and Seyoon Kim

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