UN draft condemns N Korea launch

Veto-wielding Security Council members agree statement calling for sanctions on Pyongyang.

North Korea says the  rocket was a carryinga communications satellite [AP]
North Korea says the  rocket was a carryinga communications satellite [AP]

Resolution 1718 was passed shortly after North Korea carried out a test of a nuclear bomb in October 2006 and forbids North Korea from launching ballistic missiles or carrying out further nuclear tests.

‘Long-range missile’

North Korea says that the launch successfully placed a satellite into orbit, but the US and South Korea dispute this claim.

They believe that Pyongyang was testing a long-range missile capable of reaching as far as the US west coast.

In depth

 Photo: N Korea’s launch site
 Video: N Korea’s arsenal
 North Korea: A state of war
 Outcry over N Korea rocket

The 15 members of the security council are expected to vote on the statement on Monday. As the US, China, Japan, Britain, France and Russia have already agreed, diplomats said its adoption was virtually assured.

Claude Heller, Mexico’s ambassador to the UN and the Security Council chair this month, said that the compromise text “is an excellent basis for a consensual and clear message”.
“What is important is that the Security Council acts in a very unified manner,” he said. “I hope this goal will be achieved on Monday with a formal adoption of this draft.”

But the statement, which is considered to be non-binding, fell short of the resolution Japan had hoped for.

“Japan’s strong preference was a resolution, but equally important is unity … that’s why we’ve accepted this statement, a presidential statement has never had such a strong message,”  Yukio Takasu, the Japanese ambassador to the UN, said.

The statement called for the UN Sanctions Committee on North Korea to designate “entities and goods” to face sanctions. It adds that if the committee failed to do so by the end of the month, the council will make its own list.

“The good news is the Security Council permanent members reached an agreement, some sort of consensus finally,” Leonid Petrov, a North Korea research associate at the School of Pacific and Asian studies at the Australian National University, said.

“But the presidential statement is going to indicate the weakness of the United Nations as an international organisation to envision a response to the international crisis we witnessed last week,” he told Al Jazeera.

Six-party talks

Earlier this week, Pak Tok-Hun, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the UN, defended what he said was his country’s right to a peaceful space programme,

Speaking at the UN headquarters in New York, Pak warned that if the 15-member security council “takes any kind of steps, we will consider this infringes upon the sovereignty of our country. The next option will be ours”.

Asked if Washington believed Pyongyang would abide by the statement, Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN,  said the countries that agreed the draft “believe that this text strikes the appropriate balance between strong statement, clear condemnation and consequences, and the expectation that all will benefit from the continuation of the six-party talks”.

The North has warned previously that it will abandon long-running six-nation nuclear disarmament talks if any fresh UN sanctions are imposed.

Mark Seddon, Al Jazeera’s diplomatic correspondent, said: “The objective of all members of the Security Council is to get North Korea back to the six-party talks.

“The North Koreans, althought they are often unpredictable, are usually quite rational and what is going on is a kind of negotiation.

“Everybody is being very careful … China and Russia especially as they really do believe that the best way to get the North Koreans to progress is not to be too tough with them,” he said.

The six party talks, hosted by China and including the US, South Korea, Japan and Russia, have been stalled since December after Pyongyang refused to agree on ways of verifying nuclear disarmament claims.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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