South Koreans are on the horns of a dilemma about North Korea policy ahead of the presidential election.
The United States has formally requested a UN Security Council vote on Monday on the toughest sanctions yet against North Korea despite resistance from China and Russia, as Pyongyang’s state media calls for a nuclear arms build-up.
Washington has presented a draft UN resolution calling for an oil embargo on North Korea, an assets freeze on leader Kim Jong-un, a ban on textile exports and an end to payments of North Korean guest workers.
“This evening, the United States informed the UN Security Council that it intends to call a meeting to vote on a draft resolution to establish additional sanctions on North Korea on Monday, September 11,” a statement from the US mission to the United Nations read.
The statement declined to say what text would be voted on – the original draft Washington first presented on Wednesday, an amended text or another version.
In North Korea, which was marking the nation’s founding anniversary on Saturday, local media issued fresh calls for a nuclear arms build-up, in defiance of the mounting international sanctions.
“The defence sector, in step with the party’s Byungjin policy (of developing the economy and nuclear weapons at the same time), must make cutting-edge Juche weapons in greater quantities,” Pyongyang’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in an editorial, referring to the national philosophy of “Juche” or self-reliance.
North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test on September 9 last year, and then carried out a sixth a week ago, saying it was a hydrogen bomb that could be fitted onto a missile – prompting global condemnation and calls for further sanctions.
In July, it tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that appeared to bring much of the mainland US into range.
Kim himself has called the ICBM tests “gift packages” that the North was delivering to the “US bastards”.
One month after a ban on coal, iron and shellfish imports from North Korea, diplomatic sources said council members are seeking new measures to punish Pyongyang for its sixth and largest nuclear test on September 3.
The diplomats expressed optimism for the US-backed measure, despite Russia and China’s reticence.
“I don’t really see a veto at this point, and I think we will reach agreement,” because all members have shown a “willingness to negotiate,” an expert on the matter said on condition of anonymity.
A ban on oil and oil products is the “toughest point,” a source familiar with the discussions said.
“The Russians and the Chinese are categorically opposed.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said it is too early to talk about a vote at the Security Council on new North Korea sanctions, insisting any pressure should be balanced against restarting talks.
“Along with pressure on the North Korean regime to induce it to abandon provocations in the implementation of its nuclear and missile programs, it is necessary to emphasise and increase the priority of efforts to resume the political process,” Lavrov said.
Russia is also opposed to sending back to their country North Korean expatriates who are an important source of revenue for the Pyongyang regime, sources said.
The US wants tough sanctions to be imposed to maximise pressure on Pyongyang to come to the table and negotiate an end to its nuclear and missile tests.