This March 2, 2016 United Nations handout photo shows the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopting resolution 2270(2016), imposing additional sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in response to that country’s continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program at the UN in New York. Photo: AFP/United Nations/Rick Bajornas
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted on Wednesday the toughest sanctions ever imposed on North Korea in response to its fourth nuclear test and rocket launch.
The 15-member council passed a resolution drafted by the United States and backed by China, Pyongyang's sole ally, that was seen as a major shift in the approach to North Korea's provocative actions.
US President Barack Obama said the package of broad measures were "a firm, united, and appropriate response by the international community" to the January 6 nuclear test and February 7 rocket launch.
"The international community, speaking with one voice, has sent Pyongyang a simple message: North Korea must abandon these dangerous programs and choose a better path for its people," Obama said in a statement.
The resolution requires countries to take the unprecedented step of inspecting all cargo to and from North Korea, impose trade restrictions and bar vessels suspected of carrying illegal goods for North Korea from ports.
It provides for a ban on exports of coal, iron and iron ore, gold, titanium and rare earth minerals from North Korea, and prohibits the supply of aviation fuel including rocket fuel to the reclusive country.
Banking restrictions will be tightened and governments will be required to ban flights of any plane suspected of carrying contraband destined for North Korea.
"These are among the toughest measures we have agreed against any country in the world, certainly the toughest ever against the DPRK" (North Korea), said British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft.
"This marks a significant shift on the Security Council as a whole," he said.
Under the measure, UN member states will expel North Korean diplomats engaged in smuggling or other illegal activities.
A total of 16 individuals and 12 entities were added to a UN sanctions blacklist, including North Korea's NADA space agency and its spy agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau.
Luxury watches, snowmobiles, recreational watercraft such as Sea-Doos and sports equipment will also be banned from sale to North Korea, building on a previous resolution targeting Pyongyang's elites.
Japan's Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa described the resolution as "ground-breaking" but stressed that sanctions were "not the final objective".
"Depending on the behavior and attitude of the DPRK, the security council is prepared to suspend or lift sanctions," he added.
A shift from China?
It took seven weeks of tough negotiations for the United States and China to come to agreement on the package of measures, but its impact will depend largely on how Beijing implements the sanctions.
Japan and South Korea also lobbied for sanctions that they insisted would be significantly stronger than those in place since 2006.
China fears too much pressure could trigger the collapse of the pariah regime, creating chaos on its border.
Talks on ramping up sanctions were held as South Korea and the United States announced plans for the deployment of a new missile defense system on the Korean peninsula and the adoption of new US sanctions against Pyongyang.
"The United States, South Korea and Japan have stopped outsourcing to China their policy on North Korea," said Roberta Cohen, an expert on North Korea at the Brookings Institution.
China, and to a lesser extent Russia, "will find loopholes, they always have," to avoid fully implementing UN sanctions, said Cohen.
But Beijing "sees the mobilization of alliances, strong military alliances between the United States, South Korea and Japan and it sees that it can't go on the way it has," she added.
The latest resolution ushered in the fifth set of UN sanctions to hit North Korea since it first tested an atomic device in 2006.