UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council was set to vote Tuesday on a resolution condemning North Korea's rocket launch in December that sent a satellite into orbit.
A diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the draft resolution reiterates the council's previous demand that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program and not proceed with further launches.
The resolution would be the first in four years to expand the sanctions regime on North Korea. Washington negotiated with Beijing over the weekend to adopt a compromise on a resolution.
China's agreement to join a resolution is a step away from the protection it usually gives to North Korea, its neighbor, which it defended in the Korean War in the early 1950s against U.S.-led U.N. troops.
China is seen as North Korea's closest ally, and its protection of North Korea meant that the Security Council previously denounced North Korea's launches with non-binding council statements, which are unenforceable.
North Korea sent a satellite into space on Dec. 12 aboard a long-range rocket, a launch that the U.S. and its allies have criticized as a test of banned ballistic missile technology. In 2006 and 2009, Pyongyang conducted atomic tests after being slapped with Security Council condemnation and sanctions for similar launches of long-range rockets.
Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from any use of ballistic missile technology, even if characterized as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle.
The diplomat said the draft resolution imposes new sanctions under existing authorities on North Korean companies and government agencies, including North Korea's space agency and several individuals.
The resolution also updates lists of nuclear and ballistic missile technology banned for transfer to and from North Korea and includes several new provisions targeting North Korea's smuggling of sensitive items that could contribute to the prohibited programs.
Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Vitaly Churkin has said Moscow is ready to support the new resolution. "I don't expect the U.N. Security Council members will have any serious problems" with the text, Churkin told Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.
In its talks with China, the U.S. had to agree that the resolution would not bring in new forms of sanctions but would build on the existing Security Council sanction regimes.
On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei confirmed that "China took part recently in the relevant discussions at the U.N. Security Council."
"China has stated its position many times on North Korea's launching a satellite," he said. "We said it was to be regretted that North Korea launched the missile despite the global community's concern."
It is believed that China may have been willing to join the new resolution because satellite surveillance has shown activity at North Korea's nuclear blast test sites suggesting another atomic test may be imminent.
North Korea vowed last week to strengthen its defenses amid concerns the country may conduct a nuclear test as a follow-up to last month's rocket launch.
Citing U.S. hostility, Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry said in a memorandum that North Korea will "continue to strengthen its deterrence against all forms of war."
The memorandum carried by state media did not say what action North Korea would take to defend itself. However, North Korea has claimed the right to build atomic weapons to protect itself from the United States, which stations more than 28,000 troops in South Korea.