Published: Wed, September 13, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

China urges North Korea to 'take seriously' bid to halt nuclear programme

The new sanctions ban 90 percent of North Korea's publicly-reported exports and cap the amount of oil the country is able to import, according to a US official familiar with the negotiations. And the new measure dilutes the original language that would have banned the import of North Korean laborers altogether, saying that countries should not provide work authorization papers unless necessary for humanitarian assistance or denuclearization.

The measures fell short of Washington's goals: a potentially crippling ban on oil imports and freezing the worldwide assets of Kim and his government.

Pyongyang said it "has developed and perfected the super-powerful thermonuclear weapon as a means to deter the ever-increasing hostile moves and nuclear threat of the US", and to "defuse the danger of nuclear war looming over the Korean peninsula".

Ultimately, analysts said, diplomatic success would be measured not by the strictness of sanctions, but by the ability of world powers to persuade Pyongyang to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile tests. He did not elaborate.

Whether the administration will garner the support of Moscow and Beijing when the new sanctions come up for a vote Monday evening at the United Nations Security Council remains to be seen.

"In North Korea they will eat grass but still not give up this [nuclear and ballistic missile] program", said Putin.

Any measure needs at least nine out of 15 votes on the Council to be adopted, and no vetoes.

Professor Joseph DeThomas of Pennsylvania State University, a former US ambassador and State Department official who dealt with North Korea, said the USA demand for quick council action is "an indicator of how the administration thinks time has run out".

He also called for unity in the UN Security Council, which is set to consider a new draft resolution presented by Washington in recent days that would be the toughest-ever imposed on North Korea. "If it agrees to stop its nuclear program, it can reclaim its future".

Briefing the USA lawmakers, Treasury Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea displayed satellite photos to demonstrate North Korea's deceptive shipping practices.

China, North Korea's sole ally and main trading partner, has strongly objected to an oil embargo out of fear that it would bring the North's economy to its knees. The ship then docked in Vladivostok, Russia, before finally going to China to presumably unload its cargo.

Noting that oil is the lifeblood of North Korea's effort to build and deliver a nuclear weapon, Haley said the resolution reduces nearly 30 per cent of oil provided to North Korea by cutting off over 55 per cent of its gas, diesel, and heavy fuel oil.

"The success of the pressure strategy will depend on cooperation from worldwide partners, especially Beijing", said Susan Thornton, America's top diplomat for East Asia. "If they can not, we will not let them use it", the staffer said.

Those tools include more sanctions. However, China or Chinese oil companies could still decide to unilaterally impose tougher oil export sanctions on North Korea.

Billingsea described the action as "a very clear warning shot that the Chinese understood".

A slew of brazen tests in recent months, which contravene existing United Nations sanctions, has sparked surging tensions over the North Korean weapons programme.

President Trump has long railed against China's trade policy, recently threatening to cut off trade with any country that imports goods from North Korea.

"That's a problem between us and the United States", Kim said.

Republican Rep. Ed Royce, the committee chairman, said US and allied efforts should be "super-charged".

That was the result of opposition from China and Russian Federation, which are wary of putting too much economic pressure on North Korea. He singled out the China Merchants Bank and the Agricultural Bank of China. However, Chinese exports of diesel to North Korea actually increased from 367 tons in June to 1,162 tons in July, indicating that the North Korean regime is still getting some fuel supplies from China, which can keep its most essential operations functioning.

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