UN Security Council strongly condemns North Korea's rocket launch

North Korea's rocket launch of the earth observation satellite Kwangmyong  at an undisclosed location on Sunday.
North Korea's rocket launch of the earth observation satellite Kwangmyong at an undisclosed location on Sunday. PHOTOS: AFP

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - The UN Security Council on Sunday (Feb 7) strongly condemned North Korea’s rocket launch and said it would speed up work on a sanctions resolution “in response to these dangerous and serious violations.”

The statement was adopted by China, Pyongyang’s ally, and the 14 other council members during an emergency meeting called after Pyongyang said it had put a satellite into orbit with a rocket launch. 

Sunday’s launch followed Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test on Jan 6, which drew international condemnation and prompted China and the United States to open negotiations on new, tougher UN sanctions.

  A draft resolution prepared by Japan, South Korea and the United States has been in negotiations for weeks. But Beijing has been reluctant to back measures that would take aim at North Korea’s already weak economy. 

The 15-member council said it would “adopt expeditiously” a new sanctions resolution, but there was no indication that China would agree to US demands to include tougher measures. 

Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi said the council should adopt “a new resolution that will do the work of reducing tensions, of working toward denuclearization, of maintaining peace and stability, and of encouraging a negotiating solution.”

China can use its veto power to block any resolution that would significantly scale up sanctions against Pyongyang by, for instance, barring North Korean ships from ports or restricting oil deliveries. 

US Ambassador Samantha Power stressed that the new set of sanctions should “break new ground” and appealed to China to recognise “the grave threat to international peace and security” posed by Pyongyang’s actions. 

“There cannot be business as usual after two successive acts,” US Ambassador Samantha Power told reporters.  \

While the United States turned up the pressure to reach agreement on sanctions, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin warned: “We should not be looking at an economic collapse of DPRK.”

The council has imposed four sets of sanctions on North Korea since it first tested an atomic device in 2006.  There are 20 North Korean entities and 12 individuals on the UN sanctions blacklist, which provides for an assets freeze and a global travel ban.