The UN Security Council (UNSC) on Friday issued a new resolution aimed at stifling North Korea’s fuel imports, food and machinery shipments abroad, and granting member states increased powers to interdict suspicious vessels.
The new measures will also compel member states to return all North Korean laborers working within their borders and their handlers within two years.
Resolution 2397 will cut the North’s supplies of both refined fuel products and crude oil by 89 percent, a move which will affect both China and Russia, the DPRK’s long-standing energy patrons.
The new measures strengthen existing provisions on supplying oil to North Korea, with resolution 2375 – approved in September – allowing more generous caps on refined fuel products and crude oil exports to the DPRK.
But while Resolution 2397 says “all crude” and “all refined” oil is banned, exceptions later in their respective paragraphs indicate the trade will be able to continue in the coming months, though in a limited capacity.
China’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations Wu Haitao said in the aftermath of the vote that Beijing “urges the DPRK to take seriously the demands of the international community.”
Wu also said that China had paid a “price higher than other parties” through its implementation of sanctions.
Both Chinese and Russian representatives reiterated calls for a resolution of the North Korean issue through their “dual-freeze” proposal, which would see Pyongyang’s pause missile and nuclear tests in return for a freeze in U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises.
Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, used his speech to “demand openness to dialogue.”
He also said that certain standards of the UNSC had been “overlooked” in the adoption of the resolution, and stressed that the new measures do not apply to the activity of in-country diplomats, the joint North Korea-Russia project in Rajin, or the DPRK’s national airline, Air Koryo.
The new restrictions also expand the list of products that UN member states can no longer import from the DPRK, adding food, machinery, wood, earth and stone, electrical equipment and vessels to the prohibitions.
Resolution 2397 also tightens up language on inspecting and seizing vessels suspected of carrying illicit cargoes.
The additional restrictions indicate that North Korea’s trade partners are not only prohibited from importing items like North Korean coal, but must now also seize the vessels attempting to do so.
The new measures now require member states to inspect suspicious ships, whereas the previous resolution only “calls upon” countries to do so, a non-binding provision.
The UNSC also voted to tighten restrictions upon the use of North Korean laborers abroad, giving UN member states two years to expel DPRK workers and their managers.
The measure builds upon existing restrictions which already prohibit countries from issuing work visas to North Koreans, though did not apply to contracts and arrangements signed before a certain date.
It also includes a clause stipulating that workers cannot be repatriated if their return to North Korea represents a threat to their lives.
Member states have two years to comply with the new rules, a time period Russia representative Safronkov said was the “minimum acceptable period to deal with the logistical aspects of the issue,” and must report on progress within 15 months.
Resolution 2397 also added 15 DPRK nationals working for the country’s banks to its sanctions list, in addition to the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces.
One expert said the new restrictions on oil would have a tangible impact on the North Korean economy.
“That would pinch the DPRK economy, reducing the use of generators, for example, to only well-connected and high-priority users, and also further restricting the availability of motor fuels,” David Von Hippel, a Nautilus Institute Senior Associate, told NK News.
The new measures follow North Korea’s testing launching on November 27 of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The test saw North Korea claim it had tested a missile that could hit “entire region of the U.S. mainland” and be mounted with a “super-large heavy warhead.”
It was Pyongyang’s first launch since September 15, when it successfully fired an IRBM Hwasong-12 missile, and its third of an ICBM.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the name of the newest UN Security Council resolution on North Korea. The correct name is Resolution 2397.
Featured image: File photo
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