US calls Monday vote on new North Korea sanctions

The United States called for a vote Monday on a U.N. resolution that would impose the toughest-ever sanctions on North Korea, a move that could lead to a showdown with the country’s biggest trading partner China and its neighbor Russia.

The Trump administration adopted a totally new approach with this resolution, circulating an American draft Tuesday and setting a vote six days later. With previous sanctions resolutions, the U.S. spent weeks and sometimes months negotiating the text with China and then presenting a resolution to the rest of the Security Council for a vote.

Several diplomats said the U.S. demand for a speedy council vote was aimed at putting maximum pressure on China and reflected Washington’s escalating concern over North Korea’s latest nuclear test, which its leaders touted as a hydrogen bomb, and its recent ballistic missile launch over Japan.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who backs “robust” new sanctions, said Thursday that the U.S. proposals to ban all oil imports and textile exports and prohibit North Koreans from working overseas — which helps fund and fuel the country’s nuclear and missile programs — are “a proportionate response” to its “illegal and reckless behavior.”

Rycroft stressed that “maximum possible pressure” must be exerted on North Korea to change course and give diplomacy a chance to end the crisis.

The proposed U.S. sanctions would also freeze all foreign financial assets of the government and its leader, Kim Jong Un. The U.S. draft also identified nine ships that have carried out activities prohibited by previous U.N. resolutions and would authorize any U.N. member state to stop these vessels on the high seas without their consent and use “all necessary measures” — which in U.N. language includes force — to carry out an inspection and direct the vessel to a port.

Professor Joseph DeThomas of Pennsylvania State University, a former U.S. ambassador and State Department official who dealt with North Korea, said the U.S. demand for quick council action is “an indicator of how the administration thinks time has run out.”

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