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Latest update : 2009-06-12

A new draft UN resolution seeks to punish North Korea for a rocket launch in April with new sanctions on overseas funds. The resolution backed down from earlier calls for North Korean cargo to be inspected for violations of trade and arms embargoes.

REUTERS - World powers moved closer to punishing North Korea with new sanctions for its nuclear test while envoys from the reclusive communist state held talks with South Koreans on Thursday over a troubled joint factory park.

The draft U.N. Security Council resolution, written by the United States and endorsed by the four other permanent members plus Japan and South Korea, aims to hit the North’s meagre overseas finances and could be voted on by as early as Friday.

The resolution, if adopted, is likely to draw sharp rebuke from the prickly North, which threatened to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile unless the Security Council apologises for punishing it for an April rocket launch widely seen as a disguised long-range missile test.

“This sanctions regime, if passed by the Security Council, will bite, and bite in a meaningful way,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, told reporters.

North Korea has been subject to sanctions for years for military moves condemned by regional powers. Analysts are not sure if new measures will have much impact on the impoverished state, whose economy has only grown weaker since leader Kim Jong-il took over in 1994.

The U.N. draft “condemns in the strongest terms” North Korea’s nuclear test last month and “demands that (it) not conduct any further nuclear test or any launch using ballistic missile technology”.


The end result reflected compromises to satisfy Chinese and Russian objections. Beijing and Moscow had opposed language in earlier drafts requiring all countries to inspect North Korean ships carrying suspicious cargo that might violate a partial U.N. trade and arms embargo.

In the latest version, the Security Council “calls upon” states to inspect suspicious sea, air and land cargoes, but does not demand it. Arms sales are one of North Korea’s few sources of hard cash.

Beijing, the closest Pyongyang can claim as a major ally, is reluctant to accept any new sanctions that would significantly undercut its economic ties to North Korea or push an already weak economy into collapse.

“China has faced immense pressure on this, so it’s had to make concessions,” said Shi Yinhong, an international security expert at China’s Renmin University, in explaining why Beijing appears to be on board.

“China feels in no position to push back hard, because North Korea has offered it nothing to fall back on. Nothing.”

North Korea has angered the region and countries beyond in the past few weeks with missile launches, threats to attack the South and a nuclear test, prompting U.S. and South Korean forces to raise a military alert on the peninsula to one of its highest since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The North has been able to obtain a steady flow of foreign currency from the South Korean companies using cheap North Korean labour and land to make goods at the Kaesong industrial enclave, located just within the communist state.

The two Koreas opened talks on the Kaseong park that come about a month after the North said it was revoking all deals on wages, rent and fees paid there. Analysts said this was likely a bargaining ploy to squeeze more money out of the South.

South Korea’s defence minister said on Wednesday he saw the the North’s military moves as being aimed at building internal support for Kim’s government as the 67-year-old leader prepares for succession in Asia’s only communist dynasty.

The North has been preparing to test-launch as early as this month a long-range missile that could hit U.S. territory and mid-range missile that can hit all of South Korea and most of Japan, South Korean officials have said.

Date created : 2009-06-11