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UN to Vote on Watered-Down New Sanctions Against North Korea

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council was scheduled to vote late Monday on a new, watered-down sanctions resolution against North Korea that eliminates initial U.S. demands to ban all oil imports to the country and freeze international assets of the government and its leader Kim Jong Un.

The draft resolution, agreed to late Sunday after final negotiations between the U.S. and China, the North’s ally and main trading partner, also eliminates a U.S. proposal to authorize the use of force to board nine named ships, which it said violated previous U.N. sanctions resolutions, to carry out inspections.

The new draft, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, would ban North Korea from importing natural gas liquids and condensates and cap its import of refined petroleum products and crude oil.

It would ban all textile exports and prohibit all countries from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers — two key sources of hard currency. It would also ban all new and existing joint ventures and cooperative entities unless they are “non-commercial, public utility infrastructure projects not generating profit” that are approved by the U.N.

The revised resolution would condemn “in the strongest terms” the latest nuclear test, which Pyongyang said was of a hydrogen bomb, calling it a “flagrant” violation of previous council resolutions banning all nuclear tests.

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 called the resolution “very robust” and “a very significant set of additional sanctions on imports into North Korea and exports out of North Korea and other measures as well.”

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 and I very much hope that all my council colleagues will vote in favor of the revised draft.” He said he expects China and Russia to support it.

In significant changes from the complete ban on all oil imports in the original U.S. text, the revised resolution would require all countries to cap crude oil imports to North Korea at the level they supplied, sold or transferred during the 12-month period before the resolution’s adoption.

It would also cap refined petroleum product imports to the North at 500,000 barrels during an initial period of three months from October through December. It would also cap the import of refined petroleum products at 2 million barrels a year starting Jan. 1, 2018.

The original U.S. draft would have ordered all countries to impose an asset freeze and travel ban on Kim Jong Un and four other top party and government officials. The new draft targets would add only one person to the sanctions list — Pak Yong Sik, a member of the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Military Commission, which controls the country’s military and helps direct its military industries.

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 new draft drops sanctions on the airline and army and would only add the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the party’s powerful Organization and Guidance Department and its Propaganda and Agitation Department to the sanctions blacklist.

China and Russia have called for a resolution that focuses on a political solution and 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. That initiative was rejected by the Trump administration.

Russia has argued that sanctions aren’t working and President Vladimir Putin expressed concern last week that a total oil cutoff could hurt the North Korean people.

The revised resolution adds new language urging “further work to reduce tensions so as to advance the prospects for a comprehensive settlement,” and underscoring “the imperative of achieving the goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.”

It also adds language underscoring the Security Council’s commitment to North Korea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, to “a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the situation,” and “its concern that developments on the Korean Peninsula could have dangerous, large-scale regional security implications.”

The revised resolution expresses the council’s “determination to take further significant measures” in the event of a new nuclear test or ballistic missile launch.