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US allies in Asia welcome new N. Korea curbs

UNITED NATIONS/SEOUL

Major US allies in Asia welcomed on Tuesday the UN Security Council’s unanimous vote to step up sanctions on North Korea, with its profitable textile exports now banned and fuel supplies to the reclusive North capped after its sixth nuclear test.

China’s UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi called on North Korea to “take seriously the expectations and will of the international community” to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile development.

Japan and South Korea said after the passage of the US-drafted Security Council resolution they were prepared to apply more pressure if Pyongyang refused to end its aggressive development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Monday’s decision was the ninth sanctions resolution unanimously adopted by the 15-member Security Council since 2006 over North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes.

A tougher initial US draft was weakened to win the support of China, Pyongyang’s main ally and trading partner, and Russia, both of which hold veto power in the council.

“We don’t take pleasure in further strengthening sanctions today. We are not looking for war,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the council after the vote. “The North Korean regime has not yet passed the point of no return.”

“If it agrees to stop its nuclear programme, it can reclaim its future … if North Korea continues its dangerous path, we will continue with further pressure,” said Haley, who credited a “strong relationship” between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping for the successful resolution negotiations.

UN member-states are now required to halt imports of textiles from North Korea, its second largest export after coal and other minerals in 2016 that totalled $752 million and accounted for a quarter of its income from trade, according to South Korean data. Nearly 80 per cent went to China.

“This resolution also puts an end to the regime making money from the 93,000 North Korean citizens it sends overseas to work and heavily taxes,” Haley said.

“This ban will eventually starve the regime of an additional $500 million or more in annual revenues,” she said.

South Korea’s presidential Blue House said on Tuesday the only way for Pyongyang to end diplomatic isolation and become free of economic pressure was to end its nuclear programme and resume dialogue.

“North Korea needs to realise that a reckless challenge against international peace will only bring about even stronger international sanctions against it,” the Blue House said.

However, China’s official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary that the Trump administration was making a mistake by rejecting diplomatic engagement with the North.

“The US needs to switch from isolation to communication in order to end an ‘endless loop’ on the Korean peninsula where “nuclear and missile tests trigger tougher sanctions and tougher sanctions invite further tests,” Xinhua said.

Agencies