By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - In response to North Korea's third nuclear test, the U.N. Security Council is set to tighten financial restrictions on North Korea and crack down on Pyongyang's attempts to ship and receive banned cargo in violation of existing sanctions.
The measures are included in a draft sanctions resolution which the United States delivered to the council on Tuesday. The nine-page text was the product of three weeks of negotiations between the United States and China in response to North Korean's third nuclear test on February 12.
The 15-nation council plans to put it to a vote on Thursday at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT), Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, council president for March, said on Wednesday.
The resolution, which council diplomats say is intended to bring the North Korea sanctions regime more in line with tough U.N. measures in place against Iran, would have the council "expressing the gravest concern at the nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea)."
But the success of the new measures, council diplomats say, will depend to a large extent on the willingness of North Korea's ally China to enforce them.
Council diplomats say the U.N. sanctions regime against Iran over its nuclear program, which Western powers and their allies say is intended for making weapons but Tehran says is peaceful, has been more effective than the restrictions on Pyongyang. That, they say, is why they used the Iran measures as a model.
The U.S.-drafted North Korea resolution, if adopted, would impose an obligation on the United Nations' 193 member states to block any financial services or monetary transfers that "could contribute to the DPRK's nuclear or ballistic missile programs."
It specifically mentions "bulk cash" transfers, which council diplomats say is one of Pyongyang's preferred methods of moving cash - often in briefcases carried by its diplomats.
The resolution would also impose a binding obligation on countries to "not provide public financial support for trade with the DPRK" if it could in any way support North Korea's nuclear or missile work.
The new resolution would further make inspections of suspicious land, sea or air cargo - including luxury goods intended for the North Korean elite - mandatory. Until now, such inspections have been voluntary.
Similar measures were included in resolution 1929, the council's last sanctions resolution against Iran. Western diplomats say those measures have proven to be surprisingly effective in complicating Iran's efforts to skirt sanctions and raise funds for its nuclear and missile programs.
Pyongyang was hit with U.N. sanctions for its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests, measures that were subsequently tightened and expanded after several rocket launches. In addition to the luxury goods ban, there is an arms embargo on North Korea, and it is forbidden from trading in nuclear and missile technology.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said on Tuesday that the new draft resolution "builds up, strengthens and significantly expands the scope of the strong U.N. sanctions already in place" on North Korea.
She said the new sanctions would target "the illicit activities of North Korean diplomatic personnel, North Korean banking relationships, (and) illicit transfers of bulk cash."
The resolution also calls for asset freezes and travel bans on the chief representative of the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID), North Korea's main arms dealer which has been under U.N. sanctions since 2009, and his deputy.
Also to be blacklisted is an official at Tanchon Commercial Bank. Tanchon was added to the U.N. blacklist in 2009 as the main North Korean financier for Pyongyang's arms trade.
Two North Korean entities will also be blacklisted - the Second Academy of Natural Sciences and the Korea Complex Equipment Import Corporation, a subsidiary of Korea Ryonbong General Corporation. Both are linked to North Korea's military, the draft resolution says.
The resolution specifies some of the luxury items North Korea is not allowed to import, such as yachts, racing cars, luxury automobiles and certain types of jewelry. This is intended to repair a loophole which allowed countries to decide for themselves what constitutes a luxury good.
Provisions of the new resolution encourage states to expel North Korean diplomats engaging in illicit activity on their territories.
(Editing by Doina Chiacu, Mohammad Zargham and Eric Walsh)