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UNSC negotiations being protracted amid Sino-US rivalry, political uncertainties in US

Negotiations at the UN Security Council over a new sanctions resolution on North Korea are being drawn out with no signs of an imminent breakthrough nearly two months after Pyongyang's fifth nuclear test.

Analysts said that the delay appears to be in part because of political uncertainties in the United States, which will hold a presidential election this week, and a strategic rivalry between the US and China.

Following Pyongyang's Sept. 9 nuclear test, the most powerful one to date, the US, along with South Korea and Japan, have been pushing to craft a package of much more stringent sanctions on the North than the one adopted in March after the communist state's fourth nuclear blast in January.

But the move has not gained much traction as some countries, including China, the North's longtime patron, have apparently been reluctant to apply too much pressure on the recalcitrant regime, analysts said.

In the case of the latest UNSC sanctions resolution on the North, it took 57 days for major powers to finalize it. But this time, it is expected to take more time than the previous negotiation process.

A diplomatic source, who requested anonymity, said there appears to be "considerable progress" in negotiations between Washington and Beijing over the envisioned sanctions package.

But even after the agreement between the two major powers, the UNSC should go through the process of securing consent from Russia, which would take one or two weeks, diplomatic experts said.

Speculation has also risen that Washington and Beijing may wait until the Nov. 8 presidential election in the US before they finalize their decision on how to sanction the unruly regime in Pyongyang.

Foreign policy watchers said that the delay in the UNSC decision-making, after all, stems from the growing strategic competition between the US and China.

Amid Washington's stepped-up efforts to expand missile defense in the Asia-Pacific, including South Korea, and its growing pressure over the simmering South China Sea disputes, Beijing might think of Pyongyang as a handy lever to get the upper hand in any negotiations with its superpower rival, observers noted.

Graphic provided by Yonhap News TV, shows North Korea's national flag and a UN conference. (Yonhap)
Graphic provided by Yonhap News TV, shows North Korea's national flag and a UN conference. (Yonhap)
However, the US, along with its allies South Korea and Japan, have been pushing to tighten the screws on the North by toughening both international and standalone sanctions such as tighter control of North Korea's coal experts that constitute a significant portion of its trade revenues.

China has so far been reluctant to adopt sanctions that would have serious repercussions on the North's exports for "livelihoods purposes."

Following the latest nuke test, the idea of the US employing the so-called "secondary boycott," which targets third-country entities in any transactions with the North, has been gaining ground.

But it remains to be seen whether Washington could go as far as adopting the third-country sanctions, as it could seriously hurt its ties with China given that many Chinese firms are known to engage in a series of surreptitious dealings with the North. (Yonhap)

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