UN security council to vote on North Korean sanctions

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The United Nations security council is expected to vote later today on whether to impose sanctions on North Korea after the country announced its first nuclear bomb test last week. The current draft of the resolution would ban North Korea from importing any materials that could be used in the construction of nuclear weapons, it would also restrict international travel of those involved in the country's weapons program and their family members. The five permanent members of the council and Japan met on Friday morning to discuss the wording of the bill which should be put to a vote by the full fifteen members this afternoon.

The ban also covers the purchase of large scale conventional weaponry (such as tanks, ships, aircraft and missiles) but falls short of an outright ban on the import of military hardware. Imports of luxury goods will also be restricted. In the financial sector the resolution will also authorise the freezing of assets belonging to those suspected of involvement with North Korea's weapons program. The new resolution will come five days after North Korea announced its first nuclear weapons test on Monday. The test has come under international condemnation, for which North Korea has blamed the United States. State news channel KNCA said that the United States "hostile policy ... has gone beyond the tolerance limit and a dangerous atmosphere of confrontation, reminiscent of that on the eve of war, is now prevailing on the Korean Peninsula." In response a Christopher Hill, US Assistant Secretary of State for the area, called the comments "belligerent threats" and said that the US was not nervous of them.

A year ago North Korea walked out of 'six-party' talks (between both Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan) that were set up to rid Pyonyang of its nuclear program in return for economic incentives. The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Alexander Alexyev, said that North Korea was now willing to rejoin the talks, previously the country had left in protest over US financial sanctions.

Today's vote may be delayed by Russia and China who have requested last minute alterations to the bill. Although U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton said last night that the changes were "technical" and that the vote would only be delayed by a few hours. The objections by the two countries appears to centre around the possible use of military personnel to enforce the resolution. China wish to ensure that the bill cannot be used (under Chapter 7 of the UN charter) as grounds or justification for military action against North Korea. They are also said to be worried about the wording of a section of the text that would allow nations to search any cargo to or from North Korea.

In the event of action against North Korea or for the countries economy to be hit China may suffer the most out of all of the nations on the council. They fear the influx of refugees into the country.