By Louis Charbonneau and Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - In response to North Korea's third nuclear test, the U.N. Security Council voted on Thursday to tighten financial restrictions on Pyongyang and crack down on its attempts to ship and receive banned cargo in breach of U.N. sanctions.
The U.S.-drafted resolution, approved unanimously by the 15-nation council, was the product of three weeks of negotiations between the United States and China after North Korea's February 12 test.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean foreign minister, said the resolution "sent an unequivocal message to (North Korea) that the international community will not tolerate its pursuit of nuclear weapons."
The resolution specifies some luxury items that North Korea's elite will not be allowed to import, such as yachts, racing cars, luxury automobiles and certain types of jewelry. This is to close a loophole that previously allowed countries to decide for themselves what constitutes a luxury good.
The export of luxury goods, and items related to Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs, to North Korea has been prohibited since 2006, though diplomats and analysts say the enforcement of U.N. sanctions has been uneven.
"The strength, breadth and severity of these sanctions will raise the cost to North Korea of its illicit nuclear program and further constrain its ability to finance and source materials and technology for its ballistic missile, conventional and nuclear weapons program," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
"When North Korea tries to move money to pay for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, countries must now block those transfers even if the money is being carried in suitcases full of bulk cash," she said.
China's Ambassador Li Baodong reiterated Beijing's calls for a resumption of the stalled six-party aid-for-disarmament talks between the two Koreas, United States, China, Russia and Japan.
"We want to see full implementation of the resolution," China's U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong told reporters. "The top priority now is to defuse the tension, bring down heat, focus on the diplomatic track."
NOT A DAY FOR DIALOGUE
Rice also reacted to North Korea's latest volley of bellicose rhetoric, in which it threatened the United States with a preemptive nuclear strike.
"North Korea will achieve nothing by continued threats and provocations. These will only further isolate the country and its people and undermine international efforts to promote peace and stability in northeast Asia," Rice said.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called for restraint and an end to the threats. "Let's keep our minds cool and keep focused on the need for the only possible rational course of action, and that is returning to six-party talks," he said.
But South Korea's Ambassador Kim Sook said that negotiations with Pyongyang were not Seoul's priority at the moment: "Today is not the day for talking about dialogue."
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 more than it has done in the past.
Council diplomats say the point of the new measures is to bring the North Korea sanctions regime more in line with tough U.N. measures in place against Iran.
They 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.
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.
The resolution also expresses the council's "determination to take further significant measures in the event of a further DPRK (North Korean rocket) launch or nuclear test."
It imposes 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 also adds 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.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Vicki Allen)