(ATTN: UPDATES in paras 6-13 with details, background)
NEW YORK, Nov. 30 (Yonhap) -- The U.N. Security Council adopted a new package of sanctions on North Korea on Wednesday, imposing a significant cap on Pyongyang's exports of coal and slapping other restrictions in an effort to choke off major sources of hard currency for the regime bent on developing nuclear missiles.
The 15-member council unanimously adopted Resolution 2321, 82 days after Pyongyang conducted its fifth nuclear test on Sept. 9, which marked the first time it has carried out two nuclear blasts in one year, and underlined its headlong push for nuclear development.
The centerpiece of the new sanctions is significantly curtailing North Korea's coal exports -- its single biggest export item and source of hard currency -- by putting a cap on the total amount even if exports are for "livelihood" purposes.
The North's coal exports have already been banned under the previous resolution, adopted in response to January's fourth nuclear test, but shipments for "livelihood" purposes have still been allowed, an exception that has been cited as the biggest loophole that has kept export levels little changed despite the ban.
The cap, set at whichever is lower between 7.5 million tons or US$400 million, would cut the North's annual coal export revenue by more than 60 percent or about $700 million, a huge sum that accounts for nearly a quarter of its total exports.
The new resolution also added four other minerals -- copper, nickel, silver and zinc -- to the list of mineral items the North is banned from exporting. The previous resolutions have banned exports of coal, gold, titanium, vanadium and rare earth metals.
These additions are expected to slash the North's revenue by some $100 million.
Other measures designed to dry up revenue sources include banning exports of statues, another source of foreign money for the regime that has developed expertise at building huge statues and monuments while erecting those of its leaders across the country.
Officials said statues the North has exported to African nations could cost as much as $10 million each.
The resolution also calls for U.N. member nations to pay attention to the North's labor exports, saying their wages could be diverted for the nuclear and missile programs. Though not a mandatory requirement, the warning could also lead to a cut in the North's revenue.
About 50,000 North Koreans are believed to be toiling overseas, mainly in the mining, logging, textile and construction industries under substandard working conditions. Pyongyang reportedly rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars from this system per year.
Other measures in the new resolution include requiring U.N. member nations to reduce the number of officials at North Korea's foreign missions and limit the number of bank accounts to one per North Korean diplomatic mission and one per diplomat in an effort to prevent them from involvement in illicit-money making activity.
The sanctions also blacklisted 11 North Korean officials and 10 entities, including Pyongyang's current ambassador to Egypt Pak Chun-il and former ambassador to Myanmar Kim Sok-chol, for their roles in weapons proliferation; banned the provision of financing for trade with the North; and called for tighter inspection of North Korean cargo.
It is the sixth Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on the North.
The previous five resolutions were adopted after the North's first nuclear test in 2006, its second nuclear test in 2009, its long-range rocket launch in late 2012, its third nuclear test in early 2013 and the fourth nuclear test in January.
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