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U.S. Demands UN Vote On North Korea Sanctions Despite Russian, Chinese Resistance

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley (R) confers with Chinese Ambassador to the UN Liu Jieyi

The United States on September 8 formally requested a vote of the United Nations Security Council on a U.S. resolution to impose severe new economic sanctions on North Korea over its latest nuclear test, despite resistance from China and Russia.

The resolution, which the U.S. mission to the UN said it wants the UN council to vote on September 11, would impose an oil embargo on North Korea and ban its exports of textiles as well as the hiring of North Korean laborers abroad, mostly by Russia and China, U.S. media have reported. It also reportedly would impose an asset freeze and travel ban on leader Kim Jong Un.

U.S. officials have said they want tough sanctions to maximize pressure on Pyongyang to agree to negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear and missile tests.

UN diplomats said the latest U.S. proposals would be the toughest ever imposed on North Korea in punishment for its sixth and largest nuclear bomb test on September 3.

North Korean ally China and neighboring Russia have resisted further sanctions, although both nations' UN representatives participated in discussions about a new round of sanctions this week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said this week that sanctions alone could not resolve the impasse on the Korean Peninsula. Both Beijing and Moscow have called for negotiations and a diplomatic solution.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on September 8 that it was too early for a vote in the UN Security Council on new North Korean sanctions.

"Work is currently going on over a new resolution in the Security Council and it is still early to make predictions about its final form," Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow after talks with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.

"Along with pressure on the North Korean regime to induce it to abandon provocations in the implementation of its nuclear and missile programs, it is necessary to emphasize and increase the priority of efforts to resume the political process," Lavrov said.

News agencies Reuters and AFP cited UN diplomatic sources saying that they doubted either China or Moscow, both of which have the power to veto UN council resolutions, would accept anything more stringent than a ban on imports of North Korean textiles.

Chinese officials have expressed fear that imposing an oil embargo could trigger instability in North Korea, and Putin has expressed concern that such stringent measures would hurt the nation's impoverished citizens as much as the government.

The UN council earlier this summer passed economic sanctions aimed at thwarting about a third of North Korea's earnings from exports, in what were the harshest measures to date.

The renewed debate on sanctions at the UN came as South Korea reported detecting small traces of radioactive particles that could have come from the detonation of what Pyongyang said was its most powerful hydrogen bomb in an underground test last weekend.

Radioactive isotopes of Xenon were detected in samples taken on land, sea, and air, but were too small to hurt people or the environment, Seoul's Nuclear Safety and Security Commission said.

South Korean officials have said they are bracing for a possible further missile test by North Korea when it marks its founding anniversary on September 9.

Experts say Pyongyang appears close to its goal of developing a powerful nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States, something U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to prevent.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and dpa