The UN Security Council has unanimously approved new sanctions on North Korea in a watered-down resolution without an oil import ban or international asset freeze on the government and leader Kim Jong Un that the Trump administration wanted.
The resolution does ban North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates. But it only caps Pyongyang’s imports of crude oil at the level of the last 12 months, and it limits the import of refined petroleum products to two million barrels a year.
It also bans all textile exports and prohibits all countries from authorising new work permits for North Korean workers – two key sources of hard currency.
The watered-down resolution does not include sanctions that the US wanted on North Korea’s national airline and the army.
Nonetheless, US ambassador Nikki Haley told the council after the vote that “these are by far the strongest measures ever imposed on North Korea”.
But she stressed that “these steps only work if all nations implement them completely and aggressively”.
Haley noted the council was meeting on the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
In a clear message to North Korean threats to attack the US, she said: “We will never forget the lesson that those who have evil intentions must be confronted.
“Today we are saying the world will never accept a nuclear armed North Korea,” she added.
The final agreement was reached after negotiations between the US and China, the North’s ally and major trading partner.
Haley said the resolution never would have happened without the “strong relationship” between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
But its provisions are a significant climbdown from the very tough sanctions the Trump administration proposed last Tuesday, especially on oil, where a complete ban could have crippled North Korea’s economy.
Britain’s UN ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters who questioned the watering down of the initial US 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,” declaring that “we are tightening the screw, and we stand prepared to tighten it further”.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the council’s “firm action” to send a clear message to North Korea that it must comply with its international obligations, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Guterres also reaffirmed his commitment to work with all parties to reduce tensions and promote a peaceful political solution “and to strengthening communications channels,” Dujarric said.