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U.N. Security Council Unanimously Tightens Sanctions Against North Korea


The United Nations' Security Council is issuing one final rebuke to North Korea this year. The Security Council adopted a resolution tightening sanctions, further cutting oil supplies and cracking down on what the U.S. sees as a North Korean slave labor market. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: U.N. diplomats wanted to end the year in a united fashion, and Ambassador Nikki Haley managed just that with a 15-to-nothing vote.


NIKKI HALEY: It sends the unambiguous message to Pyongyang that further defiance will invite further punishment and isolation.

KELEMEN: The new resolution requires that countries expel all North Korean workers within 24 months. It also further limits the sale of refined petroleum products.


HALEY: Today's resolution achieves an 89 percent total reduction of the Kim regime's ability to import gasoline, diesel and other refined products. And should the North Korean regime conduct another nuclear or ballistic missile test, this resolution commits the Security Council to take even further action.

KELEMEN: While Russia voted for this, its ambassador complained about the U.S. focus on sanctions rather than talks. China's ambassador warned against, quote, "tough posturing and confrontation.'' He said no one wants this to spiral out of control, and he's urging the U.S. to scale back military exercises to pave the way for talks. Diplomacy has mostly been missing from U.S. strategies so far, says Kelsey Davenport of the Arms Control Association.

KELSEY DAVENPORT: The United States appears to be laboring under the delusion that ratcheting up pressure will change North Korea's calculus. But sanctions work best when paired with a diplomatic off-ramp. And today, the Trump administration has failed to articulate that path forward.

KELEMEN: In fact, Davenport says, there have been mixed messages. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson offered talks without preconditions this month only to have the White House and his own spokesperson walk that back.

DAVENPORT: And if Secretary of State Rex Tillerson continues to get his knees pulled out from under him whenever he tries to advance diplomacy, then partners in the region have little incentive to work with the United States either to better implement existing sanctions to continue to pressure North Korea or work with Washington on a diplomatic strategy that the region can get behind.

KELEMEN: Diplomats at the U.N. were also stressing the need for negotiations. French Ambassador Francois Delattre says a tough international message should be part of a diplomatic strategy.

FRANCOIS DELATTRE: Maximum firmness today is our best antidote to the risk of war.

KELEMEN: The British ambassador is urging the North Koreans to engage with the international community. Secretary Tillerson says the door remains open for talks. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.


Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.