- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 11, 2009

The world’s major powers agreed Wednesday to expand a ban on North Korean arms exports and to authorize U.N. members to suspend financial dealings with Pyongyang and inspect shipments with suspicious cargo en route to or from the reclusive state.

A draft U.N. Security Council resolution whose adoption is expected before week’s end strongly rebukes North Korea for its recent nuclear test and missile launches. However, objections from China and Russia prevented the council from imposing legally binding financial sanctions in most cases, leaving individual countries to decide whether to implement recommended measures.

The Obama administration said it was “satisfied” with the text, although officials conceded in private that it did not go quite as far as they had hoped. But U.N. resolutions rarely do, they added.

“This sanctions regime, if passed by the Security Council, will bite — and bite in a meaningful way,” the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, told reporters in New York. “We think that the message that the council will send, should it adopt this resolution, is that North Korea’s behavior is unacceptable, [and] they must pay a price.”

The sanctions part of the resolution, which was shared with reporters and analysts, covers three main areas: arms exports, cargo inspections and finances.

In the first area, the resolution expands a previous partial embargo and bans exports of all weapons excluding small arms, which are still allowed provided sales are reported to the United Nations.

In the second area of cargo inspections — a major goal of the United States, Japan, South Korea and others — China insisted on language that only “calls upon” U.N. members to inspect shipments, diplomats said.

Ms. Rice said that countries “are expected to inspect suspected contraband cargo” on land, air and the high seas, and then seize and dispose of any contraband.

She added that if the country in which a ship is registered does not approve the search, it must send the vessel to a port where the search can be conducted. This would be “a mandatory regime binding under international law,” she told “The Newshour With Jim Lehrer.”

The wording is somewhat stronger than in Resolution 1718, which was adopted after the North’s first nuclear test in 2006.

“The key issue is how will countries, particularly China, implement it,” said Dennis Wilder, who was involved in negotiating Resolution 1718 as the top North Asia expert on the National Security Council in the George W. Bush White House. “The issue with 1718 was not that it was a bad resolution, but that it wasn’t implemented.”

China’s “strong insistence” on the “calls upon” phrase raises questions about its readiness to implement the new resolution, added Mr. Wilder, who is now a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.

On the financial front, the draft also stops short of requiring that countries and companies stop dealing with North Korea. Once again, it “calls upon” them to avoid such dealings in the future.

Despite this “flaw” in the resolution, Mr. Wilder said that Washington should still press Beijing to “take steps against North Korean banking” in China, where “$3 billion of business goes back and forth.”

Countries are required to freeze North Korean assets if it is proven they are being used to finance illicit programs or obtain dangerous materials.

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative at the New America Foundation, said that the new resolution will not “fundamentally change North Korea’s behavior.” In fact, the North has already said that it would regard any sanctions as a “declaration of war.”

“I’m not sure all this actually matters, although it’s necessary and important to express displeasure with their behavior,” Mr. Lewis said. “When you are out of options, even desperate measures look appealing.”

Although the draft could still undergo some changes, all veto-wielding Security Council members - the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia - as well as Japan and South Korea, agreed to it, so its adoption is all but certain. Diplomats said a vote could come Thursday or Friday.

Chinese Ambassador Liu Zhenmin indicated that Beijing was satisfied with the draft. “I hope countries will endorse the text,” he said.

Walter Lohman, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, called the resolution “nothing new.”

“In fact, it is full of references back to unenforced provisions of previous resolutions, particularly from October 2006,” he said.

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