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U.N. Security Council Set To Vote On New Sanctions Against North Korea


The U.N. Security Council is set to vote this evening on a new resolution to increase pressure on North Korea. Earlier this month, North Korea conducted a nuclear test, and it is reportedly getting ready for more missile tests. That's all in violation of past U.N. resolutions. The Trump administration apparently sees this as a test of the international community's will. NPR's Michele Kelemen is with us now to talk about this. Hi there.


MCEVERS: So how is the Trump administration approaching this differently from past administrations?

KELEMEN: Well, past administrations would have taken time to really negotiate a sanctions resolution ahead of time, but this administration seemed really intent on moving quickly. So soon after that nuclear test, Ambassador Nikki Haley circulated a very tough resolution that called for an oil embargo on North Korea, called on countries to ban the travel and freeze the assets of Kim Jong Un and other top North Korean officials.

And then China's ambassador at the time was on a Security Council trip to Africa, so he had to rush back to negotiate this. Over the weekend, there were negotiations. And last night we saw a new draft resolution that was circulated. And let's just say it has far fewer teeth.

MCEVERS: Oh, OK. So what's left in this draft then?

KELEMEN: Well, instead of an oil embargo, there's a cap on the exports of crude oil to North Korea. It no longer targets Kim Jong Un with sanctions. One thing that remained in both of these drafts is a ban on North Korean textile exports. That's one area where the North Koreans have managed to earn some hard currency. And there's also a ban on new work permits for North Korean workers. This is an area that the Trump administration has been trying to target because North Korea makes a lot of money by sending what's effectively slave labor abroad.

MCEVERS: Do you think the resolution will pass?

KELEMEN: I think it's likely to go through. You know, the British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said that he thinks it's robust still. And the fact that it was watered down - he kind of brushed that off, saying, there is a significant prize in keeping the Security Council united on this. Those were his words.

China's Foreign Ministry has said that it would support new U.N. measures as long as it promotes a political resolution. And we've heard sort of similar things coming from the Russians - that, you know, this needs to be resolved diplomatically. But they are concerned about the nuclear and missile tests.

MCEVERS: Does that mean the U.S. is the outlier here?

KELEMEN: Well, you know, President Trump has said this is not the time for negotiations. On Twitter, he's been pretty adamant about that. But this administration has been sending a lot of confusing signals. Trump has been threatening fire and fury, but the military hasn't done anything to suggest that it's preparing for a military option here.

And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is certainly keeping the door open to diplomacy. He's been focused for now on this pressure track - on these sanctions, resolutions and everything, but he's, you know, keeping the door open. And the State Department has said that it's going to take time for any of these sanctions to have the effect that the U.S. wants, which is to pressure North Korea back to negotiations.

MCEVERS: NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen, thank you.

KELEMEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.