US, China in tentative UN deal on N.Korea resolution-envoys

* U.S. persuaded China to rebuke Pyongyang, deal tentative

* U.S. wanted resolution imposing new sanctions-envoys

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18 (Reuters) - The United States and

China have struck a tentative deal on a draft U.N. Security

Council resolution condemning North Korea for its December

rocket launch, though Beijing has yet to give its final

approval, U.N. diplomats said on Friday.

The resolution would not impose new sanctions, but would

call for expanding existing U.N. sanctions measures against

Pyongyang, the envoys said on condition of anonymity.

A draft was expected to reach the 15-nation council as early

as later on Friday, with adoption possible next week, they said.

The deal, if China and the rest of the council accept it,

represents a compromise.

The United States had wanted to punish North Korea with a

U.N. Security Council resolution that imposed new sanctions

against Pyongyang, but Beijing rejected that option.

Beijing had wanted the council to merely issue a statement

calling for the council's North Korea sanctions committee to

expand the existing U.N. blacklists, diplomats said.

The tentative deal reached, they said, was that Washington

would forgo the idea of immediate new sanctions, while Beijing

would accept the idea of a resolution instead of a statement,

which makes the rebuke more forceful.

Assuming the North Korea sanctions committee agrees to

expand existing measures, the resolution will ultimately lead to

more stringent sanctions against Pyongyang.

"It might not be much but the Chinese move is significant,"

a council diplomat said. "The prospect of a (new) nuclear test

might have been a game changer (for China)."

After North Korea's April 2012 rocket launch, the council

passed a so-called "presidential statement" that condemned the

move and urged the North Korea sanctions committee to tighten

the existing U.N. sanctions regime.

The sanctions committee then blacklisted additional North

Korean firms and broadened a list of items Pyongyang was banned

from importing.

Washington was determined not to use the same formula as

last year, which is why it insisted that the council adopt a

resolution, not a presidential statement as China had wanted.

China is the North's only major diplomatic ally, though it

agreed to U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang in the wake of North

Korea's 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.

North Korea is already banned under Security Council

resolutions from developing nuclear and missile technology but

has been working steadily on its nuclear test site, possibly in

preparation for a third nuclear test, satellite images show.

December's successful long-range rocket launch, the first to

put a satellite in orbit, was a coup for North Korea's young

leader Kim Jong-un.

It raised tensions in East Asia at the same time as Japan

and South Korea elected new leaders. Washington wants them to

mend relations after a dispute over an island claimed by both

countries boiled over.

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