The United Nations Security Council strongly condemned North Korea's
third nuclear test on Tuesday and vowed to take action against Pyongyang
for an act that all major world powers, including traditional ally
China, have denounced.
"The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this test, which
is a grave violation of Security Council resolutions," South Korean
Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, whose country is president of the
council this month, told reporters. He said the council would now
consider "appropriate measures."
The non-binding statement was approved by all 15 council members.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that Washington and
its allies want the Security Council to pass a resolution that would
"augment the sanctions regime" already in place due to Pyongyang's 2006
and 2009 atomic tests.
The council statement was agreed at an emergency closed-door session
convened by South Korea. Diplomats say negotiations on new sanctions
could take weeks since China is likely to resist tough new measures for
fear that new sanctions could lead to further retaliation by the North
Beijing has also been concerned that tougher sanctions could further
weaken the North's economy and prompt a flood of refugees into China.
The United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - the five
permanent members of the 15-nation council - all condemned Pyongyang's
latest nuclear test, which an international nuclear test monitoring
agency in Vienna said was roughly twice as large as that of North
Korea's 2009 nuclear test.
US President Barack Obama said "the danger posed by North Korea's
threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the
Obama will be giving his annual State of the Union address later on
Tuesday. Several diplomats said it was possible that was why North Korea
chose this day to detonate an atomic device, since Pyongyang
traditionally makes such moves on important days in the U.S. calendar.
China's reaction was more muted. In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister
Yang Jiechi on Tuesday summoned the North Korean ambassador to China to
protest against the North's new nuclear test. Yang said China was
"strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed" to the test.
Several council diplomats said the United States and its allies would
push for tough new sanctions rather than merely expanding existing
measures imposed after Pyongyang's 2006 and 2009 atomic tests.Affront to China?
When North Korean leader Kim, 30, took power after his father's death in
December 2011, there were hopes the he would bring reforms and end Kim
Jong-il's "military first" policies.
Instead, the North, whose economy is smaller than it was 20 years ago
and where a third of children are believed to be malnourished, appears
to be trapped in a cycle of sanctions followed by further provocations.
China has long made clear its opposition to a new North Korean nuclear
test, but council diplomats say Beijing could be expected to put up some
initial resistance to new UN sanctions.
Eventually, UN diplomats predicted, China will most likely approve some
form of sanctions against North Korea, although it is not clear how
harsh Beijing will permit the measures to be.
Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Security in
Washington said "Chinese leaders cannot be happy with this test."
"In the world of diplomacy, little things do matter and conducting the
test during the Chinese New Year will be viewed by Beijing as extremely
insulting, and perhaps will lead to them to take quiet punitive but
temporary measures," wrote Cha, a former North Korea negotiator under
President George WBush.
Chinese New Year began on Sunday.
"Whatever North Korea says, the nuclear test will gravely damage China's
strategic and security interests," said Wang Dong, a professor at
Peking University. "But the problem is that China's options, like the
United States and others, are limited. North Korea is not our puppet. We
cannot control its behavior."
In January the council passed a resolution expanding existing U.N.
sanctions against North Korea due to its December rocket launch and
warned Pyongyang against further launches or nuclear tests. North Korea
responded by threatening a new atomic detonation.
North Korea's previous nuclear tests prompted the Security Council to
impose sanctions - including a ban on the import of nuclear and missile
technology, an arms embargo and a ban on luxury goods imports - on the
impoverished authoritarian state.
There are 17 North Korean entities, including banks and trading
companies, on the UN blacklist, and nine individuals - all linked to
North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. UN diplomats say many more
entities and individuals could be subject to international asset freezes
and travel bans.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a former South Korean foreign
minister, said through his spokesman that he hoped the Security Council
would take appropriate action.
"It is deplorable that Pyongyang defied the strong and unequivocal call
from the international community to refrain from any further provocative
measures," he said in the statement.
He later told the council that "the authorities in Pyongyang should not
be under any illusion that nuclear weapons will enhance their security.
To the contrary, as Pyongyang pursues nuclear weapons it will suffer
only greater insecurity can isolation."
© Thomson Reuters 2013