- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 13, 2009

UNITED NATIONS | The U.N. Security Council on Friday approved stronger sanctions against North Korea for its recent nuclear-weapon and missile tests, expanding a mandate to search ships at sea or in port that sparked threats of retaliation from Pyongyang.

The resolution freezes all funds, credit lines, grants and loans contributing to the nuclear, ballistic-missile and weapons of mass destruction “programs or activities” of the deeply isolated North Korean government.

The resolution also permits governments to halt and search a plane or ship if there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the cargo contains items useful to the manufacture or export of banned materiel. If the captain refuses a search on the high seas, the country whose flag the ship carries is expected to order itto port for inspection.

It is the second time a unanimous council has agreed on legally binding sanctions against Pyongyang for its increasingly belligerent rhetoric and pursuit of nuclear weapons. Diplomats say the sanctions, though broader than those imposed earlier this year, will not affect humanitarian assistance or development programs.

The lengthy and detailed text calls on the North to abandon its nuclear program and work closely with the Vienna, Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency while conforming to international covenants banning weapons of mass destruction.

Diplomats say they have no intention of using force to bring Pyongyang into compliance, preferring diplomacy and politics.

“This is a very tough, robust sanctions regime with teeth that will bite,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters at the White House on Friday.

The resolution is a response to Pyongyang’s May 25 nuclear test. It won unanimous council approval despite initial concerns from China and Russia. Both countries are trade partners with North Korea, selling weapons and other goods.

China’s ambassador to the U.N., Zhang Yesui, described the resolution as “complex and sensitive … appropriate and balanced,” and urged governments to “refrain from words or deeds that cause incitement.”

“Political and diplomatic efforts are the only ways to bring about stability on the [Korean] Peninsula,” he added.

Pyongyang on Friday threatened to retaliate if the council imposed new sanctions, an action that it said would be tantamount to war. Calls to the North Korean mission to the United Nations were not returned.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters Friday that there is no indication of major troop movements, indicating that North Korea does not intend to foray into South Korea.

Nonetheless, Seoul has dispatched hundreds of marines to its disputed sea border with the North as a precaution against any possible provocation by Pyongyang, according to news accounts from the region.

The resolution imposes an embargo on North Korea’s arms exports and makes it more difficult for the reclusive nation to import even small arms; creates a new system to inspect ships and planes thought to be carrying contraband; demands that states and institutions suspend funding that Pyongyang could divert for arms research or manufacture.

The final text, which required nearly three weeks to draft, was ultimately sponsored by the United States, Britain, Japan, South Korea and France.

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