China was expected to veto a much stronger Japanese resolution, which is supported by the US, Britain, France and four other countries.
The Chinese-Russian draft “strongly deplores” North Korea’s missile launches and calls on – rather than demands as the Japanese resolution does – a voluntarily end to missile tests.
It also softens sanctions by calling on UN members to “exercise vigilance”, rather than insisting, that they prevent supplying material and technologies that could contribute to North Korea’s missile programmes.
The resolution would encourage members “not to procure missiles or missile-related items” or technology from the North.
Wang Guangya, China’s UN ambassador, previously said Beijing objected to three key elements in the Japanese draft: acknowledgement that the tests threatened security, authority for action against North Korea, and mandatory sanctions to the missile and nuclear programmes.
The Chinese-Russian draft resolution drops these elements but the US and Japan say they are crucial.
Japan’s UN ambassador, Kenzo Oshima, and John Bolton, his counterpart, said they were prepared to put their resolution to a vote even with the prospect of a Chinese veto.
Oshima called the Chinese-Russian draft “a move in the right direction”, but said: “A quick glance shows that there are very serious gaps on very important issues.”
Bolton also said there were “deficiencies”, such as the draft’s elimination of the reference to the tests as a threat to international peace and its use of the weaker word “calls”.
The Japanese resolution would ban North Korean missile tests and prevent the country from acquiring or exporting missiles and missile technology or weapons of mass destruction and their components. It also demands that North Korea immediately stop developing, testing, deploying and selling ballistic missiles.
North Korea fired seven missiles, including a long-range Taepodong-2 potentially capable of hitting the US, on July 5. The weapons landed in the ocean between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.