The U.N. Security Council on Monday unanimously approved new sanctions on North Korea but not the measures sought by the Trump administration to ban all oil imports and freeze international assets of the government and its leader, Kim Jong Un.
The unanimous vote endorsed a compromise agreement by the U.S., crafted with China, involving lesser sanctions than the U.S. wanted, but ones that allowed a unified Council to show that with each long-range ballistic missile and nuclear test, there will be consequences for North Korea.
The original U.S. draft would also have frozen the assets of North Korea’s state-owned airline Air Koryo, the Korean People’s Army and five other powerful military and party entities. The resolution adds only the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the party’s powerful Organization and Guidance Department and its Propaganda and Agitation Department to the sanctions blacklist.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement early Monday saying it was watching the United States’ moves closely and warned that it was “ready and willing” to respond with measures of its own. It said the U.S. would pay a heavy price if the sanctions proposed by Washington are adopted.
Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Matthew Rycroft, told reporters who questioned the watering down of the initial U.S. text that:
“there is a significant prize in keeping the whole of the Security Council united.”
Rycroft called the resolution “a very significant set of additional sanctions on imports into North Korea and exports out of North Korea, and other measures as well.”
French Ambassador Francois Delattre said,
“We are facing not a regional but a global threat, not a virtual but an immediate threat, not a serious but an existential threat.”
“Make no mistake about it,” he said, “our firmness today is our best antidote to the risk of war, to the risk of confrontation, and our firmness today is our best tool for a political solution tomorrow.”
China and Russia had called for a resolution focused on a political solution to the escalating crisis over North Koreas nuclear program. They have proposed a freeze-for-freeze that would halt North Korean nuclear and missile tests in exchange for the U.S. and South Korea stopping their joint military exercises — but the Trump administration has rejected that.
China’s U.N. ambassador, Liu Jieyi, said Beijing has been making “unremitting efforts” to denuclearize and maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.
Liu again raised the freeze-for-freeze proposal and said the legitimate concerns of all parties must be balanced. He expressed hope the U.S. will incorporate into its plans pledges not to seek regime change in North Korea or the country’s collapse.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia went further, making clear that while Russia supported the resolution, it wasn’t entirely satisfied with the council’s approach.
He said the “unwillingness” of the U.S. to reaffirm pledges not to seek regime change or war in North Korea or to include the idea of having U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres use his good offices to try to resolve the dispute “gives rise to very serious questions in our minds.”
“We’re convinced that diverting the gathering menace from the Korean Peninsula could be done not through further and further sanctions, but by political means,” he said.
The resolution does add new language urging “further work to reduce tensions so as to advance the prospects for a comprehensive settlement.” It retains language reaffirming support for long-stalled six-party talks with that goal involving North Korea, the U.S., Russia, China, Japan and South Korea.