UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council voted Wednesday to further tighten sanctions on North Korea following months of diplomatic wrangling over how best to respond to North Korea's latest nuclear test in September and their repeated defiance of international sanctions and diplomatic pressure.
The council unanimously approved the sanctions resolution with diplomats hailing it as a major step forward in its efforts to get the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
"In March, this council passed what were then the toughest sanctions to date on the DPRK. But the DPRK remained as determined as ever to continue advancing its nuclear technology. The DPRK found ways to continue diverting revenue from exports to fund its research, it tried to cover up its business dealings abroad, and it looked for openings to smuggle illicit materials by land, sea, and air. U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said following the vote. "Today's resolution systematically goes after each of these illicit schemes."
The new sanctions target North Korea's hard currency revenues by placing a cap on coal exports, cutting them by at least 62 percent or by an estimated $800 million.
The new sanctions further clarify that the "livelihood" exemption, which allowed the Chinese imports, is meant only to protect the livelihoods of those currently living inside North Korea, not Chinese people or companies doing business with the country.
The sanctions also slap a ban on North Korea's exports of non-ferrous metals and sanction 11 government officials as well as 10 entities linked to the country's nuclear weapons program.
The sanctions include a host of other measures cracking down on the country's access to the international banking system and on North Korea's export of statues, which have earned the country hard currency mostly through sales to African nations.
The resolution also threatens, for the first time, to suspend some or all of North Korea's U.N. privileges if it does not comply.
North Korea's main ally and largest trade partner, China hailed the sanctions as striking a balance between punishing the rogue nation and protecting its people.
"The resolution adopted by the council today demonstrates the uniform stand of the international community against the development by DPRK of its nuclear missile programs and forward the maintenance of the international non-proliferation regime," China's Ambassador Liu Jieyi said, adding that the measures "are not intended to produce negative consequences on DPRK's humanitarian situation."
But Jieyi also criticized the planned U.S. deployment of a missile shield in South Korea as potentially destabilizing for the region.
Japan's Ambassador Koro Bessho said he hoped the increased pressure would bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.
"We are introducing the sanctions, not for the sake of introducing sanctions but in order to change the course of DPRK policy. If the DPRK shows commitment to denuclearization, serious commitment and concrete actions, we are certainly ready to come into dialogue with them and try to solve the situation," Bessho said.
North Korea's persistent pursuit of missiles and nuclear weapons has long been one of the most intractable foreign policy problems for U.S. administrations.
Diplomacy has so far failed. Six-nation negotiations on dismantling North Korea's nuclear program in exchange for aid were last held in late 2008 and fell apart in early 2009.
The Korean Peninsula remains technically at war, as the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.