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U.N. to consider N. Korea sanctions

Restrictions would limit regime’s access to financing

UNITED NATIONS – The United States, China and other major powers reached agreement Wednesday on a draft U.N. resolution that condemns North Korea’s recent underground nuclear test and imposes additional military, financial and trade sanctions on the communist state. The draft was presented to the full, 15-nation Security Council for consideration and could be adopted as early as Friday.

The agreement followed weeks of intensive, closed-door negotiations among the Security Council’s five permanent members – the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain – plus Japan and South Korea.

Going into the talks, one of the key questions was whether China and Russia, North Korea’s longtime allies, would join the United States and other Western powers in backing tough new measures to punish the Pyongyang government for its April 5 nuclear detonation and a flurry of ballistic missile tests.

Russia’s U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin, said Wednesday his government shares the “frustration” of the United States and other powers with North Korea’s actions, which “pose some real proliferation risks.” But he said the text is carefully worded to exclude military action and to leave the door open to political talks.

Still, the resolution, if passed, would represent an escalation of the U.N.’s efforts to restrain North Korea. It would sharply restrict Pyongyang’s access to international grants, financial assistance and low-interest loans. It would also reinvigorate efforts to enforce a range of sanctions imposed on North Korea after its first nuclear test in October 2006.

The text calls for U.N. member states to inspect all shipments entering or leaving North Korea if there is a reasonable suspicion that the cargo contains banned nuclear or missile technology. It also urges member nations, for the first time, to board ships suspected of carrying banned materials on the high seas and to seize any contraband they find.

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