UN Security Council to hold emergency talks on North Korea

A TV showing North Korean breaking news at Seoul station on Jan 6.
A TV showing North Korean breaking news at Seoul station on Jan 6.PHOTO: EPA

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP, REUTERS) – The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday (Jan 6) in New York after North Korea claimed it had carried out a “successful” hydrogen bomb test, diplomats said.

The closed-door morning talks between the 15 member nations were called by the United Nations and Japan.

“While we cannot confirm at this time that a test was carried out, we condemn any violation of UNSC Resolutions and again call on North Korea to abide by its international obligations and commitments,” United States mission spokeswoman Hagar Chemali said.

If the test was indeed a hydrogen bomb, it would mark a significant increase in capabilities from the North, which previously tested far less fission blasts generated by uranium or plutonium.

 

A hydrogen, or thermonuclear device, uses fusion in a chain reaction.

If North Korea’s claim is confirmed, it would massively raise the stakes around its banned nuclear program and likely trigger tougher international sanctions.

Pyongyang has carried out three previous nuclear tests – in 2006, 2009 and 2013 – which led to a series of sanctions from the United Nations.

Several UN resolutions ban the reclusive North from any nuclear activity or ballistic missile technology.

At the council, Pyongyang ally Beijing regularly tries to shield the North from condemnation or sanctions, while Washington repeatedly denounces the communist regime and its human rights violations.

Japan joined the council on Jan 1 under a two-year mandate as a non-permanent member.

The United States has said it is too early to verify North Korea’s claim to have tested a hydrogen bomb Wednesday (Jan 6), but has vowed to "respond appropriately" to "any and all provocations". 

The White House has recently expressed skepticism about Pyongyang's announcement that it had perfected a device substantially more powerful than an atom bomb.

Officials said they were still investigating whether the hermit state’s claim of a fourth nuclear test was true.

"We are aware of seismic activity on the Korean Peninsula in the vicinity of a known North Korean nuclear test site and have seen Pyongyang's claims of a nuclear test," said National Security Council spokesman Ned Price.

"While we cannot confirm these claims at this time, we condemn any violation of (United Nations Security Council) resolutions." 

Bringing new punitive measures against Pyongyang may prove difficult, after years of extensive sanctions on North Korean entities and the need for coordination among regional actors with conflicting interests.

The White House has recently tried to focus on human rights record, rather than its military provocations.

In December, the White House poured cold water on Kim Jong Un's suggestion that North Korea has developed a hydrogen bomb.

Spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House had concerns about the "destabilising actions" of the regime, though available information "calls into serious question" claims that Pyongyang has a thermonuclear device.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said a test of a hydrogen nuclear bomb by North Korea would be a "provocation which I condemn without reservation" and a "grave breach" of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Mr Hammond tweeted the statement during his two-day trip to Beijing: "If North Korean H-bomb test reports are true, it is a grave breach of #UNSC resolutions and a provocation which I condemn without reservation."

There was no immediate response from China, North Korea’s key diplomatic protector, but in a report from Pyongyang, the official Xinhua news service said that the “test apparently runs counter to relevant UN resolutions” and “is set to cause repercussions”. 

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop said her country “condemns in the strongest possible terms” the test, which “confirms North Korea’s status as a rogue state and a continuing threat to international peace and security”, adding that Canberra would express its concerns to Pyongyang directly and call for stronger UN sanctions.