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N.K. sanctions to include tighter 'livelihood exemption' clause for coal exports

2016/11/20 09:06

SEOUL, Nov. 20 (Yonhap) -- New international sanctions being ironed out after North Korea tested its fifth nuclear device in September will include tighter exemption rules regarding the export of coal, diplomatic sources in Seoul said Sunday.

Official insiders said that talks at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) are in their final stages, and will include more stringent guidelines on the "livelihood exemption" clause in Resolution 2270 announced in March to penalize the North for its fourth nuclear test in January and the long-range missile launch in the following month. The existing exemption allows exports if cutting them off will hurt ordinary people's livelihoods.

"The change should oblige the importer to prove that the coal it is buying from the North does not in any way support the country's nuclear and ballistic missile programs," said an official, who declined to be identified.

The revisions will mainly affect Chinese companies who have been importing North Korean coal despite the international trade embargo imposed on the reclusive state. Such imports have been cited as a serious loophole that is hurting the integrity of the UNSC sanctions and making it easier for Pyongyang to brush aside pressure to halt its weapons of mass destruction program. Coal is the North's main export commodity and key source of foreign currency.

"If an agreement is reached that can close the loophole, Pyongyang will certainly feel the pinch," another government insider said.

He then said that with most of the sticking points having been resolved, there is a good chance that a new resolution will be approved by the UNSC as early as this week.

The official said there is even the possibility that it will touch on the North's deplorable human rights record.

Diplomatic observers said it has taken the international body some time to reach an agreement on sanctions, because China has been weary of putting too much force on its neighbor out of fear it could cause the country to collapse.

Beijing, while adhering to nonproliferation, does not want to see the Pyongyang regime fail.

In particular, Chinese policymakers are opposed to the idea of seeing a pro-U.S. South Korea right on their front doorstep in the event North Korea implodes.