The U.N. Security Council voted Monday on a new sanctions resolution to impose the first restrictions on exports of crude oil and petroleum products to North Korea over its sixth and largest nuclear test.
The watered-down resolution, unanimously approved by the 15-member council, drops a proposed oil embargo and instead places an annual cap on crude oil exports to the North at the level seen in the previous 12 months, while capping the annual supply or export of refined petroleum products at 2 million barrels.
The restrictions on North Korea's access to oil is a major pillar of the new sanctions aimed at coercing the North into abandoning its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, particularly following its latest nuclear test on Sept. 3.
"Today we are saying the world will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and today the Security Council is saying that if the North Korean regime does not halt its nuclear program, we will act to stop it ourselves," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the council.
The first U.S.-penned resolution was weakened following negotiations primarily between the United States and China, which is Pyongyang's closest ally and trading partner, with Beijing apparently worried that stopping the flow of crude oil could disrupt the lives of ordinary North Korean people.
The latest sanctions resolution also bans exports to North Korea of natural gas liquids and light crude condensate, a natural gas by-product.
Targeting the North's sources of foreign currency, the resolution prohibits North Korea from exporting textiles and calls on U.N. members not to grant work permits for North Korean migrant workers, but with exceptions added.
Plans for specific sanctions on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the national airline Air Koryo have been abandoned for the time being.
In the first draft, Kim and four other individuals would have been subject to asset freezes and travel bans, but this measure now only applies to Pak Yong Sik, the country's defense minister.
Sanctions also apply to the Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea and two other organizations, down from seven in the first draft.
The new resolution calls on U.N. member nations to inspect ships on the high seas with the nod from the flag country if they are believed to be carrying prohibited cargo. The original draft would have authorized states to use force to inspect vessels suspected of carrying North Korean cargo.
Including the latest one, the Security Council has adopted nine rounds of resolutions imposing sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs since it conducted its first nuclear test in 2006.
The council last month imposed sanctions over North Korea's two long-range ballistic missile launches in July. The Aug. 5 resolution was meant to slash by a third the country's $3 billion annual export revenue by banning shipments of coal, iron, lead and seafood.
North Korea's Foreign Ministry criticized the impending vote in a statement reported by the country's official news service on Monday, saying that if the resolution is adopted, Pyongyang will take a "series of action tougher than (the United States has) ever envisaged."
In the first such statement since July last year, the ministry said the United States is "trying to use (North Korea's) legitimate self-defensive measures as an excuse to strangle and completely suffocate it."
North Korea has claimed its latest nuclear test was of a hydrogen bomb that can be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Monday's statement said North Korea developed the thermonuclear weapon to deter the United States' "ever-increasing hostile moves" and "defuse the danger of nuclear war looming over the Korean peninsula and the region."
It stressed that if the resolution is passed, North Korea "shall make absolutely sure that the U.S. pays due price," taking measures that will cause the United States "the greatest pain and suffering it had ever gone through in its entire history."
The official Korean Central News Agency reported on Sunday that Kim reiterated his desire to further strengthen North Korean nuclear capabilities at a banquet in Pyongyang in honor of scientists who contributed to the latest nuclear test.