UN council to look into tougher North Korea sanctions

China refuses to let UNSC publish report on N Korea`s nuke sanctions busting.

Last Updated: Feb 24, 2011, 10:39 AM IST

New York: A UN Security Council committee has agreed to look into recommendations by experts on tightening sanctions against North Korea even though China is blocking their formal release, diplomats said on Wednesday.

The experts` special report, sent to the council`s sanctions committee late last month, accuses Pyongyang of violating measures imposed against its nuclear program after North Korea`s 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.

The report also makes proposals for toughening up the sanctions. Western countries say China, North Korea`s neighbour and big power ally, is key to shutting off arms exports and other activities banned by the 15-nation Security Council.

Diplomats said last week that China had informed council members it would block the publication of the experts` report on the committee`s website and the official transfer of the report to the full council.

The committee, which monitors compliance with the sanctions, met for the first time this year on Tuesday.

"We`re looking at the (experts`) recommendations," Portuguese Ambassador Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral, who chairs the committee, told reporters after the full council held closed-door discussions on North Korea on Wednesday.

But diplomats said it was not clear what the council would then do, if China continued to block the report`s publication. Decisions by the sanctions committee need consensus.

"We will see how we treat it and what we do with it in due course," Moraes Cabral said. "You have to discuss these things in depth and give it time and be patient and eventually arrive at a decision based on consensus."

One Western diplomat said the report contains "quite far-reaching" proposals on tightening controls in transit countries for North Korean arms shipments, tougher air cargo measures, widening definitions of banned goods and possible addition of names to lists of sanctioned firms and persons.

Add to pressure

The experts` report has in practice reached all members of the Security Council, but diplomats said publication was important if the Chinese were to be brought on board to put its recommendations into effect.

"The very fact that it`s published will add to the pressure to implement the recommendations," one senior envoy said. "Whereas if it is done as a purely private process ... it may be difficult to persuade them to do it."

"The practice is as we know the Chinese don`t like being embarrassed in public and the fact that it`ll be out there making public recommendations will strengthen our hand in persuading them that they need to agree the recommendations."

The panel`s report says North Korea almost certainly has undisclosed uranium enrichment-related facilities in addition to its known facility at Yongbyon.

It also says Pyongyang`s enrichment program and its development of a light-water reactor are serious violations of UN sanctions.

The report of the panel, which includes experts from the five permanent Security Council members, South Korea and Japan, was partly based on conversations with US nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker, who saw around 2,000 centrifuges used to enrich uranium during a rare visit to North Korea last year.

Diplomats said China`s objections to publication of the report were based in part on its contention that Hecker had no official standing.

Beijing was also arguing that publication could increase tensions on the Korean peninsula and make a return to suspended six-party talks on Pyongyang`s nuclear program more difficult.

In an apparent concession to China, the sanctions committee`s routine quarterly briefing to the Security Council on Wednesday made only a glancing reference to the panel of experts` report and did not mention the publication dispute.

The briefing to the closed session said there had been no reports of new violations of council resolutions in the past quarter and the committee continued investigating previous alleged violations.

Bureau Report