Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

UN eyes imposing toughest sanctions on North Korea

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A U.S.-China draft resolution aimed at reining in North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile program would impose some of the strongest sanctions ever ordered by the United Nations, in a move certain to infuriate the regime and inflame tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The proposed resolution put forward by the United States and China -- North Korea's closest ally -- followed Pyongyang's third nuclear test on Feb. 12. It reflected the UN Security Council's growing anger over the country's defiance of three previous rounds of sanctions aimed at halting all nuclear and missile tests.

Pyongyang threatened to cancel the 1953 ceasefire that ended the Korean War in response to the looming fourth round of sanctions. North Korea insists its nuclear program is a response to American hostility that dates back to the Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically in a state of war.

"North Korea will be subject to some of the toughest sanctions imposed by the United Nations," Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said. "The breadth and scope of these sanctions is exceptional and demonstrates the strength of the international community's commitment to denuclearization and the demand that North Korea comply with its international obligations."

Rice and China's UN Ambassador Li Baodong, who negotiated the text behind closed doors over the last three weeks, predicted speedy approval of the resolution.

"The vote will be Thursday -- that's the target," Li said. Rice said the council hoped for "unanimous adoption."

The draft resolution would make it significantly harder for North Korea to move around the funds it needs to carry out its illicit programs.

It would also strengthen existing sanctions that bar North Korea from testing or using nuclear or ballistic missile technology and from importing or exporting material for these programs. It would strengthen the inspection of suspect cargo bound to and from the country.

Many analysts believe the success of this new round of sanctions depends largely on how well China enforces them. Most of the companies and banks North Korea is believed to work with are based in China.

The Korean People's Army Supreme Command, citing the U.S.-led push for sanctions, threatened Tuesday to cancel the armistice agreement on March 11 because of ongoing U.S.-South Korean military drills that began March 1. Without elaborating, the command also warned of "surgical strikes" meant to unify the divided Korean Peninsula and of an indigenous, "precision nuclear striking tool."

Such heated military rhetoric and threats have become increasingly common from North Korea as tensions have escalated following last December's rocket launch and Pyongyang's recent nuclear test.

The United States and other nations worry North Korea's third nuclear test pushes it closer to its goal of gaining nuclear-armed missiles that can reach the U.S. The international community has condemned the regime's nuclear and missile efforts as threats to regional security and a drain on the resources that could go to North Korea's largely destitute people.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 6, 2013 A12

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