The US has circulated a draft resolution to the UN Security Council that would condemn North Korea for its rocket launch last month and calls for tightening existing UN sanctions, diplomats said on Monday.
The draft was the result of a deal between the US and China, the envoys said on condition of anonymity. Even though the draft does not call for any new sanctions against Pyongyang, diplomats said China’s support for the resolution represented a significant diplomatic blow to Pyongyang.
“We hope to have a vote midweek,” one diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
China said earlier on Monday that the Security Council needed to pass a cautious resolution on North Korea, adding that this was the best way to ensure regional tensions did not escalate further.
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin voiced Moscow’s backing for the draft text last week.
“I expect we will support it,” Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency quoted Churkin as saying. “I don’t expect that the UN Security Council members will have any serious problems [with the resolution].”
“Our position is that the North Korean rocket launch is a violation of a UN Security Council resolution, so the council should react,” Churkin said.
The draft, which was sent to the 15 council members, calls for sanctioning a number of additional North Korean entities, including Pyongyang’s space agency, diplomats said on condition of anonymity.
North and South Korea are still technically at war, because their 1950-1953 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty.
The US had wanted to punish North Korea for the rocket launch with a UN Security Council resolution that imposed new sanctions against Pyongyang, but Beijing rejected that option.
Beijing had wanted the council to merely issue a statement calling for its North Korea sanctions committee to expand the existing UN blacklists, diplomats said.
The US-Chinese deal, they said, was that Washington would forgo the idea of immediate new sanctions, while Beijing would accept the idea of a resolution instead of a statement. This makes the rebuke more forceful.
After North Korea’s rocket launch in April last year, the council passed a “presidential statement” that condemned the move and urged the Security Council sanctions committee to tighten the existing UN sanctions regime.
The committee then blacklisted additional North Korean firms and broadened a list of items Pyongyang was banned from importing.
China is the North’s only major diplomatic ally, although it agreed to UN sanctions against Pyongyang after North Korea’s 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.
North Korea is already banned under Security Council resolutions from developing nuclear and missile technology.