U.N. council condemns North Korea rocket launch
Seoul, South Korea — The U.N. Security Council on Sunday strongly condemned North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket that world leaders denounced as a banned test of dangerous ballistic missile technology and another “intolerable provocation.” The U.N.’s most powerful body pledged to quickly adopt a new resolution with “significant” new sanctions.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un went ahead with the launch just two hours after an eight-day window opened early Sunday, and a month after the country’s fourth nuclear test. He ignored an appeal from China, its neighbor and important ally, not to proceed and in another slap to Beijing, he chose the eve of the Chinese New Year, the country’s most important holiday.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye called the launch an “intolerable provocation.” She said the North’s efforts to advance its missile capabilities were “all about maintaining the regime” in Pyongyang and criticized the North Korean leadership for ignoring the hardships of ordinary North Koreans.
Since its Jan. 6 nuclear test, which the North claimed was a powerful hydrogen bomb but experts believe was not, China and the United States have been negotiating the text of a new Security Council sanctions resolution.
The U.S., backed by its Western allies, Japan and South Korea, wants tough sanctions reflecting Kim’s defiance of the Security Council. But diplomats say China, the North’s key protector in the council, is reluctant to impose economic measures that could cause North Korea’s economy to collapse.
The 15-member Security Council strongly condemned the launch and pledged to “expeditiously” adopt a new resolution with “further significant measures” — U.N. code for sanctions. The word “robust” referring to the measures was in an initial draft, but was dropped in the final statement.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told reporters that “it cannot be business as usual” after two successive North Korean acts that are “hostile and illegal.”
“What’s important is that the Security Council unites,” Power said. “China is a critical player. … We are hopeful that China, like all council members, will see the grave threat to regional and international peace and security, see the importance of adopting tough, unprecedented measures, breaking new ground here, exceeding the expectations of Kim Jong Un.”
However, China’s U.N. ambassador, Liu Jieyi, made clear that unprecedented sanctions aren’t Beijing’s priority.
He said a new resolution should “do the work of reducing tension, of working toward denuclearization (of the Korean peninsula), of maintaining peace and stability, and of encouraging a negotiated solution.”