The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to impose new sanctions on North Korea, banning exports that supply up to a third of the country’s annual $3 billion earnings.
The U.S.-sponsored resolution was in response to North Korea’s launch of two intercontinental ballistic missiles last month, activities prohibited under existing U.N. resolutions.
The sanctions ban North Korea’s largest export, coal, along with exports of iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore, and seafood. Together, those exports amount to more than $1 billion a year in income for Pyongyang.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council that the vote showed Pyongyang that the world was united in seeking to end its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. But “we should not fool ourselves into thinking we have solved the problem,” Haley said. “Not even close. The North Korean threat has not left us.”
She said the United States had no plans to decrease its military exercises with North Korea, despite calls from China and Russia to do so, in exchange for gradual deescalation of its prohibited weapons activities.
Beijing and Moscow, in casting their votes for the new sanctions, said they appreciated statements by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week that the United States does not seek North Korea’s collapse, replacement of its government or “accelerated reunification” of the Korean peninsula, and has no intention of send troops there.
“Our hope is that the United States will translate these ‘four no’s’ into a firm policy,” Liu Jieyi, China’s U.N. ambassador, told the council. In addition to reducing U.S. military exercises in the region, he repeated China’s objection to deployment of sophisticated U.S. anti-missile systems, known as THAAD, in South Korea. “THAAD will not bring a solution,” he said. “What it will do is to seriously undermine the strategic balance of the region.”
China also called for the resumption of talks between North Korea, regional powers and the United States. In his Tuesday statement, Tillerson said Washington was interested in a “productive dialogue,” but only on the basis of Pyongyang’s acceptance of nuclear disarmament.
“We don’t think having a dialogue where the North Koreans come to the table assuming they’re going to maintain their nuclear weapons is productive,” he said.
President Donald Trump has expressed disappointment in the failure of China, which accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s economic activity, to exert sufficient pressure on the rogue regime in Pyongyang. Passage of the new resolution follows nearly a month of U.S.-Chinese negotiations over the text, bolstered with administration warnings that it was preparing to lodge unrelated complaints against Beijing at the World Trade Organization.
It condemns the long-range missile tests, and reminds North Korea that tests of both the missiles and nuclear weapons are prohibited by previous resolutions.
In addition to banning exports, the resolution also prohibits all countries from increasing the number of North Korean laborers they employ, prohibits any new joint ventures and commercial agreements with North Korea, and increased investment in existing ventures. It also adopts new measures to strengthen previous measures and improve sanctions enforcement.
The goal is to prevent North Korea’s access to hard currency, which Haley and other delegates at the council session said are not used for the welfare of the North Korean people. The United States had initially hoped to ban oil exports and additional banking and commercial penalties, which were opposed by China and Russia.
Although U.N. sanctions were first imposed in 2006 against North Korea, they have not prevented tests of five nuclear warheads and four long-range missile launches since then, including the two launches in July.