The US is pushing the United Nations Security Council to further sanction North Korea over its renewed ballistic missile launches by banning tobacco, halving oil exports to the country and blacklisting the Lazarus hacking group.
Washington circulated the draft to the 15 council members this week. It was not immediately clear if or when it could be put to a vote. A resolution needs nine “yes” votes and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain or the US.
Russia and China have already signalled opposition to strengthening sanctions in response to Pyongyang’s launch last month of an intercontinental ballistic missile – its first since 2017.
US special envoy on North Korea, Sung Kim, said last week that Washington had discussed the draft UN text with China and Russia, but “unfortunately, I cannot report that we have had productive discussions with them thus far”.
South Korean and US officials and analysts have also said there are increasing signs that North Korea could also soon test a nuclear weapon for the first time since 2017.
The US-drafted UN resolution would extend a ban on ballistic missile launches to include cruise missiles or “any other delivery system capable of delivering nuclear weapons”.
It would halve crude oil exports to North Korea to 2 million barrels annually and halve refined petroleum exports to 250,000 barrels. It also seeks to ban North Korean exports of “mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation”.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is known as a chain smoker – frequently seen with a cigarette in hand in photographs in state media – and the draft resolution would ban exports to North Korea of tobacco and related products.
North Korea has been subjected to UN sanctions since 2006, which the Security Council has steadily – and unanimously – stepped up over the years in a bid to cut off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
The draft resolution would also impose an asset freeze on the Lazarus hacking group, which the US said is controlled by the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s primary intelligence bureau.
The Lazarus group has been accused of involvement in the “WannaCry” ransomware attacks, hacking of international banks and customer accounts, and the 2014 cyber-attacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell