SEOUL — The United Nations Security Council is expected to tighten sanctions on North Korea. The action would be in response to Pyongyang's rocket launch last month, which violated a ban on the country using ballistic missile technology.
A draft resolution began circulating among U.N. Security Council members this week, after the United States and China reached a compromise following intense behind-the-scenes discussions about North Korea and its nuclear program.
Although Washington favored a tough resolution, Beijing expressed reluctance about a hard line against its neighbor and ally.
Diplomats say a majority of the 15 members of the Security Council are now in agreement on an approach that is to include fresh sanctions against North Korea's space agency.
It also is reported to include strong language condemning North Korea's December 12th launch that was in violation of two previous U.N. resolutions.
South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai Young confirms discussions about the resolution are near conclusion.
But Cho says it is premature to speak about South Korea's stance on the resolution until everything is concluded.
The draft circulated among diplomats Monday calls for “determination to take significant action” should North Korea attempt any future launches or nuclear tests.
In Beijing Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei confirmed Chinese authorities have participated in the recent Security Council consultations.
He says Chinese officials believe that North Korea went ahead with the satellite launch despite international concerns and China finds it regrettable. He says that at the same time, Chinese authorities believe the Security Council resolution should try to avoid escalating tensions and maintain peace on the peninsula.
South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho reiterates Seoul's stance that Pyongyang not conduct a third nuclear test.
Cho says South Korea has expressed and requested many times that the North not carry out such activities and instead focus on trying to better the lives of its destitute citizens.
The North and South have no diplomatic ties and have technically remained in a state of war since a 1953 armistice.
North Korea is one of the world's most isolated and impoverished countries.
New U.N. sanctions are also expected against more North Korean companies, state agencies and individuals. Those actions will include asset freezes, tougher scrutiny of financial transactions and travel embargoes.
The Security Council deliberations come amid new allegations by South Korea's Defense Ministry that Pyongyang now has the capability to build an inter-continental ballistic missile.
An analysis released by the ministry Monday says Pyongyang has compiled technology and materials to develop missiles with a range of up to about 10,000 kilometers.
Officials in Seoul say more than 50 specialists reached that conclusion, including those from the United States. They analyzed six pieces of the North Korean rocket's first-stage engine parts that were recovered in the Yellow Sea since mid-December.