U.S. Calls for UN Vote Monday on Fresh North Korea Sanctions

  • Japan says hopes council delivers a firm UN resolution
  • Trump declines to say if he’d accept nuclear North Korea

U.S. Wants Vote on Harsher N. Korea Sanctions

The U.S. said it would seek a vote Monday on a draft United Nations Security Council resolution on North Korea, as it pushes for fresh sanctions against the regime after its recent nuclear test.

The U.S. informed the Security Council on Friday night of its plan to call the vote, the State Department said in a brief statement, adding it would look to impose further penalties on Pyongyang.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said he hoped for a firm UN resolution, adding stronger economic penalties might lead to a change in North Korea’s behavior. “Oil sanctions are the most effective sanctions, so I’d like to strongly ask for this,” he said on Saturday on Nippon Television. 

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President Donald Trump’s administration is pushing the Security Council to adopt a united stance as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seeks the capability to strike the U.S. with a nuclear weapon. Kim has said he won’t negotiate unless America drops its “hostile” policies.

The U.S. has warned that time is running out to act. North Korea detonated its sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb on Sunday which it said was a hydrogen device, and may launch another intercontinental ballistic missile as soon as Saturday, the anniversary of its founding. Recent missile tests point to advancements by North Korea in developing a missile that could reach the continental U.S.

Still, a halt to oil exports is far from certain. While China and Russia have condemned Kim’s actions, they have said the ultimate goal needs to be to coax him to the negotiating table and avoid a war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said more sanctions wouldn’t work, while China is wary about cutting off Kim’s economic lifeline to the point it risks collapsing his regime. China is North Korea’s main ally and by far its biggest trading partner, including for oil shipments. Observers have said Beijing might agree to just a partial, or temporary, oil exports ban.

Read more: The options for dealing with North Korea

China will support further UN action if it helps restart dialogue with North Korea, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Thursday.

The U.S. has circulated a draft resolution that would, aside from barring 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 Kim’s assets, has been sent to the 15 members of the Security Council, the diplomat said.

‘Military Power’

North Korean state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in an editorial on Saturday that Pyongyang was now a nuclear power and praised Kim for his "brilliant achievement" in strengthening "defenses to protect the Korean peninsula from invasion."

The state-run Korean Central News Agency said in a commentary also on Saturday that the U.S. was resorting to sanctions and pressure rather than seeking talks.

“The Trump administration and the Congress often claim that North Korea is a ‘rogue state’ and that the U.S. is considering the way for stop to all trading of any country with North Korea, vociferating about ‘strong military counteraction’ and ‘tougher sanctions’,” KCNA said.

“Neither sanctions nor military threat can work on the Korean people who are advancing under the banner of self-reliance, rallied close as one in mind around their great leader and great party,” it said.

North Korea already warned Friday the U.S. will “pay dearly” after its UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said the regime was “begging for war." Describing Haley’s comments as a “hysteric fit,” KCNA threatened unspecified retribution.

Nikki Haley speaks during a UN Security Council emergency meeting on Sept. 4.

Photographer: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

On Thursday, Trump said it wasn’t inevitable that the U.S. would end up in a war with North Korea, but that military action remained an option.

“I would prefer not going the route of the military, but it is something certainly that could happen,” Trump said in a press conference at the White House.

He declined to say if he’d accept a nuclear-armed North Korea that can be successfully deterred from using such weapons. A senior administration official later told reporters the U.S. won’t let North Korea extort or threaten the world with its nuclear program, and that the administration isn’t sure the country could be deterred.

The official said the danger of war is rising, and the U.S. is also concerned about North Korea exporting its nuclear technology to other nations or to terrorist groups.

The U.S. is willing to risk a veto of its proposal rather than see it watered down, according to a Security Council diplomat who asked not to be identified while negotiations are ongoing.

The Trump administration also kept up efforts to persuade other governments to scale back diplomatic and economic ties with North Korea. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised the issue of North Korean “guest workers” in Kuwait during a meeting with the Middle Eastern country’s foreign minister in Washington on Friday.

Mexico has given North Korea’s ambassador 72 hours to leave the country, though Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray later said it had not broken off diplomatic ties. Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told reporters in Manila on Friday his country was ready to cut trade ties to North Korea.

Earlier in the week, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke for 45 minutes. While both sides released statements agreeing on the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula, there was no mention of next steps.

The U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force held drills over the East China Sea, Onodera told reporters on Saturday, according to Kyodo News. The East China Sea is claimed by both China and Japan, and planes and ships from the two countries regularly tail each other around the area.

— With assistance by Kanga Kong, Kambiz Foroohar, Nick Wadhams, Kim Chipman, Ben Livesey, Keiko Ujikane, Jennifer Epstein, Sohee Kim, Margaret Talev, David Tweed, and Helen Sun

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