The United Nations is considering heavy new sanctions that would prohibit all oil product sales to North Korea, as well as stopping member states hiring North Korean laborers, purchasing its textiles, and operating joint venture businesses in the country, a draft resolution seen by NK News showed on Thursday.
The draft resolution – penned by the United States for consideration by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) – would also designate North Korea’s national airline as well as implement a travel ban and asset freeze on senior leadership figures including Kim Jong Un, his sister Kim Yo Jong, and Hwang Pyong So, the DPRK’s Vice Chairman of the State Affairs Commission.
The resolution would, notably, also allow nations to use “all necessary measures” – in other words, military force – to conduct “non-consensual inspections” of designated North Korean cargo vessels on the high seas.
In particular, member states would be prohibited from direct and indirect “sales or transfer” of all “crude oil, condensates, refined petroleum products, and natural gas liquids,” something North Korean authorities appear to have been preparing for since April given an ongoing petrol and diesel price hike internally described as having resulted from “force majeure” reasons.
Countries would also be banned from “hiring and paying of DPRK laborers,” with all work authorizations prohibited to North Koreans unless their work is related to humanitarian assistance, denuclearization, or specific tasks linked to prior UN Resolutions. It is thought North Korea has over 50,000 overseas laborers currently.
Textiles, one of North Korea’s key industries, would be banned from export to all countries worldwide, “including but not limited to fabrics and partially or completed apparel products,” with text also prohibiting manufacture with DPRK labor outside of the country.
Joint ventures in North Korea – critically including those already established – would also be banned within 90 days of approval of the Resolution, something that would in particular impact Chinese businesses that form the bulk of those operating in the DPRK.
The designation of Air Koryo would effectively shut down the bulk of all mass transit in and out of North Korea, leaving access to the country only possible by an inconsistent and regularly suspended Air China service to Beijing, as well as irregular train and ferry services from Beijing and Vladivostok respectively.
And the travel ban and asset freeze of Kim Jong Un, his sister Kim Yo Jong, as well as Hwang Pyong So and other senior leadership figures, as well as designations of multiple key arms of DPRK government, would add significant hurdles to diplomacy in foreign countries.
The resolution is designed to respond to North Korea’s September 3 nuclear weapons test – the country’s sixth – which U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Monday said required a response of the “strongest possible measures.”
But it comes amid Russia expressing strong opposition to more sanctions and recurring Chinese emphasis on a joint proposal with Moscow for the U.S. to halt military drills in exchange for a freeze of North Korea’s nuclear program.
As such, observers expressed doubt about prospects for the proposal which emerged today.
“This is a total pipe dream Resolution – can’t imagine anything like it being agreed,” said one informed source about the likelihood of it being approved by the Security Council. “Certainly (it) wasn’t discussed with the Chinese.”
David Straub, a former East Asia hand at the U.S. State Department, told NK News on Thursday that flexibility in Washington would be key.
“The biggest question I have is: to what extent is the Trump administration prepared to compromise on the text?” Straub said.
“As written, the PRC and Russia would probably veto it,” he continued. “Russia and the PRC will probably object especially to the oil cutoff and the personal designations of Kim Jong Un, but they will find many other provisions problematic, too.”
“If the Trump administration sticks to demanding most of what is in this, we could be entering a new phase, with even less real cooperation from the PRC and Russia.”
He added that even if it were agreed, enforcement – to date a recurring problem – would remain difficult.
The resolution also implies a strong U.S. rejection of recently elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s hopes to re-engage North Korea, rendering the restarting of inter-Korean economic cooperation – already limited by existing measures – almost impossible.
“This will also be a bitter pill for the Moon administration to swallow,” Straub said. “For example, the provisions against joint ventures and textiles are a rejection of Sunshine policy concepts such as the Kaesong industrial park.”
Multiple experts told NK News on Wednesday they expected turbulence between Moscow and Washington surrounding resolution negotiations – and that the U.S. may be seeking to negotiate down from a hardline position.
“I think the probability of Russian veto is rather high,” Dr. Alexander Zhebin, Director of the Center for Korean Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said.
“Russia may support a new resolution with limited additional sanctions in case it will include strong appeal to the parties concerned, especially the USA and the DPRK, to resume a dialogue and for USA to refrain from unilateral sanctions against North Korea,” Zhebin said. “It is highly probable that the same position will be taken by China.”
Despite the new proposal, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said during an event at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on Tuesday that sanctions will not necessarily work in changing North Korea’s current course.
“Look do we think more sanctions are going to work on North Korea? Not necessarily. But what does it do? It cuts off the revenue that allows them to build ballistic missiles,” she said.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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Featured Image: United Nations Building by sunnylapin on 2014-08-19 10:43:59