The big five nuclear powers, along with Japan and South Korea, have agreed on new United Nations sanctions against North Korea after Pyongyang carried out a second atomic weapons test last month.
The seven presented a draft to the UN Security Council on Wednesday for adoption as a binding resolution by all 15 council member states, possibly on Thursday.
The draft, agreed after more than two weeks of intensive negotiations, would further freeze North Korea’s financial dealings abroad, curb its arms trade and authorise the search of ships on the high seas believed to be carrying materials that broke the UN embargo.
The US and other western states had sought to make such inspections mandatory, but China and Russia were reluctant to take action that might further provoke North Korea.
The draft sanctions regime also calls on all UN states’ international financial institutions not to enter into new commitments for grants, financial assistance or loans to North Korea, except for humanitarian or development purposes.
The toughening of sanctions – originally imposed after Pyongyang carried out a nuclear weapons test in 2006 – follows a second test on May 25.
The UN move coincided with a report from Russia’s Interfax news agency quoting a military source as saying there was information that North Korea might be preparing a further missile test – also banned under previous UN resolutions.
The seven states behind the new move comprise the five permanent members of the Security Council – Britain, China, France, Russia and the US – plus the two countries feeling most threatened by the nuclear tests: Japan, a non-permanent member, and non-member South Korea.
The agreement, which clears the way for what is expected to be an unanimous vote of the full council, came as scientists meeting in Vienna on Wednesday said they had so far detected no radioactive fallout from the May 25 test.
Officials at a scientific conference on the international test ban treaty said, however, that the seismic signature of the blast left no doubt that a nuclear explosion was involved. The depth of the underground blast might have been great enough to prevent radioactive gases escaping.