North Korea: UN Security Council imposes new sanctions over ballistic missile tests
All 15 members of the Security Council signed on to a resolution limiting oil trade with the country and demanding the repatriation of all North Koreans working abroad. The vote came just weeks after Pyongyang tested an ICBM that it claimed put the US mainland within reach of its nuclear weapons.
The US-drafted resolution caps exports of refined petroleum products to North Korea at 500,000 barrels per year, and crude oil supplies at 4m barrels. It also demands all North Koreans working abroad return to their home country in the next 24 months.
The resolution builds on two previous rounds of sanctions already imposed by the Security Council over Pyongyang's rapidly expanding missile programme.
North Korea tested what it called its "most powerful ICBM" yet in November. US Defence Secretary James Mattis confirmed that the launch proved North Korea had the ability to hit "everywhere in the world." The launch followed two months of relative silence from the North, after a summer filled with missile launches and even the test of a nuclear bomb.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley thanked her fellow Council members for supporting the most recent sanctions, calling North Korea's latest missile test “another attempt by the Kim regime to masquerade as a great power while their people starve and their soldiers defect.”
Analysts testified that the fuel caps would put a heavy strain on North Korea, which is already facing shortages. Peter Ward, a columnist for NK News, said the caps would be "devastating" for North Korea's haulage industry, and for businesses and individuals who use home generators.
The CIA, however, has said publicly that no amount of sanctions will convince North Korea to drop its nuclear programme. The US intelligence agency recently blamed the North for the "WannaCry" cyber attack that temporarily debilitated businesses and hospitals around the world in May.
“President Trump has used just about every lever you can use, short of starving the people of North Korea to death, to change their behaviour,” Homeland Security adviser Thomas Bossert said upon announcing the agency's findings. “And so we don’t have a lot of room left here to apply pressure to change their behaviour.”
Still, the latest round of sanctions secured the support of China and Russia – both of which have resisted sanctioning North Korea in the past. The deadline for repatriating North Korean workers was extended from 12 to 24 months due to pushback from the two countries, according to the New York Times.
South Korea warned the Council earlier this month that the North had reached the “final stages of nuclear weaponization”. The country launched missiles over Japan – another member of the Security Council – on two occasions this year.
The US, meanwhile, has had little success pursing diplomatic options. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said earlier this month that he was prepared to talk with Pyongyang "without preconditions". But he walked those comments back less than a week later, saying the country must earn its way back to the table with a “sustained cessation" of threatening behaviour.