The US and China have agreed on the wording of a draft Security Council resolution to punish North Korea for its latest nuclear test. If approved, the sanctions would be some of the harshest ever imposed by the UN body.
"The breadth and scope of these sanctions is exceptional," US Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters at United Nations headquarters in New York on Tuesday after a meeting of the UN Security Council.
"For the first time ever, this resolution targets the illicit activities of North Korea diplomatic personnel, North Korean banking relationships, [and] illicit transfers of bulk cash," Rice said.
She added that the "breadth and scope" of the sanctions illustrated the "international community's commitment to the denuclearization" of the Korean peninsula.
The draft resolution, which diplomats said could be passed as early as Thursday, comes in response to North Korea's third nuclear test, conducted on February 12. Shortly after Pyongyang carried out the test, all 15 Security Council members approved a statement condemning the blast, setting the stage for possbile further sanctions.
China's ambassador to the UN expressed his country's support for the proposed new sanctions, but said that Beijing and Washington had "some different views" on how to respond to North Korea.
"We support the action taken by the Council, but we think that action should be proportionate, should be balanced and focus on bringing down the tension and focusing on the diplomatic track," Li Baodong told the Reuters news agency.
"A strong signal must be sent out that a nuclear test is against the will of the international community," Li added.
Rice said that, if passed, the sanctions "will significantly impede North Korea's ability to develop further its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile program."
The Council also imposed strong sanctions against North Korea after it conducted nuclear weapons tests in 2006 and 2009. Those sanctions were expanded when North Korea breached UN resolutions by launching a long-range rocket last December. That move raised the already high tensions on the Korean Penninsula.
North Korea argues that it has the right to build nuclear weapons to deter US aggression. Just hours before Tuesday's Security Council meeting, Pyongyang threatened to cancel the 1953 ceasefire that brought an end to fighting in the Korean War. It also warned of what it described as "strong" countermeasures against US hostility.
dr/pfd (AP, AFP, Reuters)