Key Nations Agree on North Korea Sanctions

Western powers joined with North Korea's key allies Wednesday on a proposal that would impose tough new sanctions against the reclusive communist nation for its second nuclear test, paving the way for quick approval by the U.N. Security Council.

The sanctions would allow foreign countries to stop and search ships heading to and from North Korea, pending approval from the country whose flag the vessel was flying.

The resolution does not, however, authorize the use of force should the stopped ships refuse to allow searches, but the sanctions should allow for more ships to be checked.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice presented the draft resolution to the 15-member council saying it would create "an unprecedented, detailed" regime in which nations "are expected to inspect suspected contraband cargo" on land and the high seas, and then seize and dispose of any contraband.

"This sanctions regime if passed by the Security Council will bite, and bite in a meaningful way," she said. "We think that the message that the council will send should it adopt this resolution is that North Korea's behavior is unacceptable, they must pay a price."

The agreement comes after two weeks of closed-door negotiations by ambassadors from the five permanent Security Council nations — the U.S., Britain and France, and the North's closest allies China and Russia — as well as the two countries most closely affected by the test, Japan and South Korea.

Past sanctions, however, have had little effect in dissuading the regime from pursuing its nuclear ambitions.

The draft, obtained by The Associated Press, would expand an arms embargo against North Korea, seek to curtail the North's financial dealings with the outside world, and freeze assets of North Korean companies.

It would also enhance the inspection of cargo heading to and from North Korea suspected of carrying banned weapons, nuclear and missile-related material, including on the high seas.

Turkey's U.N. Ambassador Baki Ilkin, president of the Security Council this month, said the nine countries that were not part of the negotiations will send the draft to their governments and "we will meet again once they have their instructions."

On Monday, Pyongyang's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the country will consider any sanctions a declaration of war and will respond to it with "due corresponding self-defense measures."

On Tuesday, North Korea said it would use nuclear weapons in a "merciless offensive" if provoked.

The draft would have the Security Council condemn "in the strongest terms" the North's nuclear test on May 25 "in violation and flagrant disregard" of the sanctions resolution it approved after Pyongyang's first nuclear test in October 2006.

It would also demand a halt to any further nuclear tests or missile launches and reiterate the council's demand that the North abandon all nuclear weapons, return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, allow U.N. nuclear inspections, and rejoin six-party talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear program.

The draft authorizes searches of ships on the high seas suspected of carrying banned weapons and nuclear material if the nation whose flag the ship was flying give approval.

If the country doesn't give its consent — a virtual certainty if it was a North Korean ship — the flag nation is required to direct the vessel to proceed to "an appropriate and convenient port for the required inspection by the local authorities."

The draft resolution does, however, not authorize the use of force to compel a ship to port.

The resolution also requires all countries not to provide fuel or other supplies to North Korean vessels if there are reasonable grounds to suspect they are carrying prohibited weapons or other items.

And it calls on all countries to inspect cargo headed for or coming from North Korea suspected of containing prohibited material.

It would ban North Korea from exporting all weapons, which would eliminate a significant source of revenue for North Korea, and it would ban the import of all arms except light weapons, expanding an arms embargo on heavy weapons imposed by the Security Council after the 2006 underground test.

Rice said the draft also calls for "a very broad set of new authorities" to keep North Korea from getting the financing for its weapons programs.

The draft calls on the 192 U.N. member states to prevent financial institutions or individuals from providing financial services, funds or resources that could contribute to North Korea's "nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related, or other weapons of mass destruction-related programs or activities." It says this can be done by freezing the funds or assets.