The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to impose a new sanctions on North Korea, including strict new limits exports of coal, in response to its latest nculear test in Sepetember.
The latest sanctions, trigged by a nuclear test conducted by the regime on 9 September, which was the fifth and largest controlled detonation of a nuclear device ever undertaken by the pariah state, are unprecedented in scope. If properly enforced, they would reduce its overall export revenues by 25 per cent in a year. That is a potentially significant blow to the country's already skeletal economy, which, the UN nations hope, will severely damage any flow of cash that could be used to fund its nuclear activities.
Most significantly, the sanctions would slash exports of coal to China. Past resolutions from the UN included a significant loophole that allowed China to import coal from North Korea if it could be shown it was necessary to assist in sustaining the most impoverished of the Chinese population.
The text, which took several weeks of negotiation that notably involved the US and China sparring over its details, also includes provisions to ban the export of copper, nickel, silver and zinc. It would also prohibit the export of statues by North Korea, also known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, DPRK.
“No resolution in New York will likely, tomorrow, persuade Pyongyang to cease its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons,” the US Ambassador to the Security Council, Samantha Power, said after the unanimous vote. “But this resolution imposes unprecedented costs on the DPRK regime for defying this Council's demands.”
The stand-off with Pyongyang will be at the top of the President-elect Donald Trump's foreign policy agenda upon taking office. Washington and its allies remain deeply concerned that North Korea may be making progress towards weaponising its ballistic missiles, which have also been at the centre of recent tests.
“In total, this resolution will slash by at least $800 million per year the hard currency that the DPRK has to fund its prohibited weapons programs, which constitutes a full 25 percent of the DPRK's entire export revenues,” Ms Power added.
China has long been resistant to calls for stronger sanctions on the DPRK, in part out of fear that a collapse of its economy would unleash a stream of refugees into its territory and lead to a destablisation of the whole region. Beijing has also remained highly critical of the US and of South Korea, accusing both countries of provoking the regime with stepped-up military exercises to its south.
China is believed to be the only country buying North Korean coal. But it is now, under the terms of the resolution, compelled to slash its imports by some $700 million compared with 2015.
Over the first 10 months of this year, Beijing imported 18.6 million tonnes of coal from North Korea, up almost 13 percent from a year earlier. North Korean exports to the end of 2016 will now be capped at $53.5 million, or 1 million tonnes.
The resolution will also have the affect of blackballing 11 more regime-level individuals in Pyongyang believed to have some involvement in the country’s nuclear programme, including former ambassadors to Egypt and Myanmar, and 10 entities, subjecting them to a global travel ban and asset freeze.