The UN Security Council is due to vote on December 22 on proposed new sanctions against North Korea that would sharply restrict its oil imports, return home all of its foreign workers within a year, and crack down on the country's shipping, media reported.
The United States proposed the tough new sanctions, though they aren't as severe as the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump recently demanded. U.S. officials at the United Nations have been calling for a total ban on oil imports and for freezing the North Korean government's international assets.
The draft resolution would cap crude oil imports at 4 million barrels a year and limit refined oil imports such as diesel fuel and kerosene to 500,000 barrels a year, down from 2 million barrels currently, media reported.
Two of the countries most affected by the new sanctions are China, which provides most of North Korea's oil imports, and Russia, which employs an estimated 35,000 North Korean workers under a guest worker program. China also has a large guest worker program for North Koreans.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chastised Russia and China for their ties to Pyongyang in a meeting at the UN last week, saying Moscow’s use of North Korean labor and China’s supply of oil to the country undermines international sanctions efforts.
The sanctions are aimed at choking off external sources of funding for North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic-missile development programs after repeated tests this year have brought the Asian nation to what experts say is the brink of developing devastating weapons that can be delivered halfway around the world.
The text of the proposal was circulated to the 15-member UN Security Council on December 21, media said.
While it was not immediately clear how China would vote, in the past proposed new sanctions on North Korea have not been shared with all members of the council until Beijing and Washington have reached agreement on them.
Other sanctions included in the package are prohibitions on the export of food products, machinery, and other items from North Korea, media said. And it would ban exports to North Korea of industrial equipment, vehicles, and industrial metals, media reported.
If adopted, the proposal would be the 10th resolution imposing new sanctions on North Korea over its missile and nuclear programs since 2006.
The measure repeats a call on Pyongyang included in previous sanctions resolutions to join six-party talks aimed at negotiating the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishing a lasting peace there.
The United States last month warned North Korea's leadership that it would be "utterly destroyed" if war were to break out.
But North Korean leader Kim John Un was no less feisty than usual on December 21, asserting in a speech that his country has "rapidly emerged as a strategic state capable of posing a substantial nuclear threat to the U.S.," North Korea's official KCNA news agency said.
With reporting by AP, AFP, dpa, and Reuters