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U.N. council to vote on N. Korea sanctions text agreed by U.S., China

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council plans to vote on Tuesday on a U.S.-Chinese resolution that would dramatically expand existing U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang, including requiring inspections of all cargo going to and from North Korea and blacklisting North Koreans active in Syria, Iran and Vietnam.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (R) waves during a concert marking the 70th founding anniversary of the Korean People's Army (KPA) military band in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang February 23, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA

The vote on the proposal, a response to North Korea’s Jan. 6 nuclear test, is expected to come during a meeting that begins at 3 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Tuesday, the U.S. mission to the United Nations said in a statement to reporters on Monday.

After nearly two months of bilateral negotiations that at one point involved U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, China agreed to support the unusually tough measures intended to persuade North Korea to abandon its atomic weapons program.

Last week the United States presented the 15-nation council with the draft resolution that would significantly tighten restrictions after North Korea’s nuclear test and rocket launch, and create what it described as the toughest U.N. sanctions regime in two decades.

The draft that Reuters saw would require U.N. member states to conduct mandatory inspections of all cargo passing through their territory to or from North Korea to look for illicit goods. Previously states only had to do this if they had reasonable grounds to believe there was illicit cargo.

The list of explicitly banned luxury goods will be expanded to include luxury watches, aquatic recreational vehicles, snowmobiles worth more than $2,000, lead crystal items and recreational sports equipment.

The proposal would close a gap in the U.N. arms embargo on Pyongyang by banning all weapons imports and exports.

There would also be an unprecedented ban on the transfer to North Korea of any item that could directly contribute to the operational capabilities of its armed forces, such as trucks that could be modified for military purposes.

Other proposed measures include a ban on all supplies of aviation and rocket fuel to North Korea, a requirement for states to expel North Korean diplomats engaging in illicit activities, and blacklisting 16 North Korean individuals and 12 entities, including the National Aerospace Development Agency or “NADA,” the body responsible for February’s rocket launch.

North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 because of its four nuclear tests and multiple rocket launches.

Originally the council had planned to blacklist 17 individuals but one name was removed from an annex of the resolution circulated to council members late on Monday and seen by Reuters.

Candidates for the blacklist include Choe Chun-sik, who was head of North Korea’s long-range missile program; Hyon Kwang Il, senior official at NADA; Yu Chol U, director of NADA; Jang Bom Sun and Jon Myong Guk, Tanchon Commercial Bank officials in Syria; Jang Yon Son and Kim Yong Chol, Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) representatives in Iran; and Kang Ryong and Ryu Jun, KOMID representatives in Syria.

Two Tanchon bank representatives in Vietnam are also to be blacklisted.

In addition to NADA, North Korean entities to be blacklisted include the Academy of National Defense Sciences, Chongchongang Shipping Co and the Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry.

One of five annexes to the resolution is a list of 31 vessels owned by North Korean shipping company Ocean Maritime Management Co Ltd to be blacklisted.

The list of banned technology items will also be expanded to make it more difficult for North Korea to press ahead with its nuclear and missile programs. Besides the ban on luxury goods, Pyongyang is currently banned from importing and exporting nuclear and missile technology.

Also new, countries will be required, not just encouraged, to freeze the assets of North Korean entities linked to Pyongyang’s nuclear or missile programs and to prohibit the opening of new branches or offices of North Korean banks or to engage in banking correspondence with them.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Michael Perry