By Rodrigo Campos and Hyonhee Shin
UNITED NATIONS/SEOUL (Reuters)
The U.N. Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea on Friday for its recent intercontinental ballistic missile test, seeking to limit its access to refined petroleum products and crude oil and its earnings from workers abroad
The U.N. resolution seeks to ban nearly 90 percent of refined petroleum exports to North Korea by capping them at 500,000 barrels a year and, in a last-minute change, demands the repatriation of North Koreans working abroad within 24 months, instead of 12 months as first proposed.
The U.S.-drafted resolution also caps crude oil supplies to North Korea at 4 million barrels a year and commits the Council to further reductions if it were to conduct another nuclear test or launch another ICBM.
North Korea on Nov. 29 said it successfully tested a new ICBM that put the U.S. mainland within range of its nuclear weapons.
Tension has been rising over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, which it pursues in defiance of years of U.N. Security Council resolutions, with bellicose rhetoric coming from both Pyongyang and the White House.
In November, North Korea demanded a halt to what it called “brutal sanctions“, saying a round imposed after its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3 constituted genocide.
U.S. diplomats have made clear they are seeking a diplomatic solution but proposed the new, tougher sanctions resolution to ratchet up pressure on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“It sends the unambiguous message to Pyongyang that further defiance will invite further punishments and isolation,” Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said after the 15-0 vote.
The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wu Haitao, China’s deputy U.N. ambassador, said tensions on the Korean peninsula risk “spiralling out of control” and he repeated Beijing’s call for talks.
China’s foreign ministry said it hoped all parties would implement the resolution and urged all sides to exercise restraint.
It also reiterated a call for what it calls a “dual suspension” proposal for the United States and South Korea to stop major military exercises in exchange for North Korea halting its weapons programmes.
South Korea welcomed the sanctions and called on the North to “immediately cease reckless provocations, and take the path of dialogue for denuclearization”.
North Korea regularly threatens to destroy South Korea, the United States and Japan, and says its weapons are necessary to counter U.S. aggression. The United States stations 28,500 troops in the South, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.
On Friday, North Korea called U.S. President Donald Trump‘s recently released national security strategy the latest attempt to “stifle our country and turn the entire Korean peninsula” into an outpost of American hegemony.
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