UNITED NATIONS • The UN Security Council has strongly condemned North Korea's latest ballistic missile test and vowed strong measures, including sanctions, to derail Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.
In a unanimous statement backed by the North's main ally, China, the council on Monday vowed to punish Pyongyang's "highly destabilising behaviour" and demanded a halt to any further nuclear or missile tests.
The statement came a day after North Korea tested what appeared to be its longest-range missile yet. Pyongyang said the new weapon, Hwasong-12, was capable of carrying a "heavy nuclear warhead".
Pyongyang carried out two atomic tests last year, and has accelerated its missile launch programme despite tough UN sanctions aimed at denying leader Kim Jong Un the hard currency needed to fund his weapons ambitions.
Its diplomat, Mr Ju Yong Choi, told the UN Conference on Disarmament yesterday the country would bolster its self-defence capabilities as long as the US continues its hostile policies towards North Korea.
United States Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood said in Geneva that the US sees China's leverage as key to resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. "I'm not going to talk about various policy options that we may or may not consider, but I will say this: We are certainly engaged right now in looking at a number of measures - political, economic, security - to deal with these provocative acts by the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), and dangerous acts in many cases," he said.
"So we are going to be raising the level of engagement with China on this issue. China really is the key in dealing with the North Korea issue. Ninety per cent of the DPRK's trade is with China, so clearly there is a lot more leverage that China has, and we would like China to use."
The US is in talks with China - Pyongyang's main trading partner - on a possible new sanctions resolution and the Security Council is expected to hold a closed-door emergency meeting starting overnight on Tuesday (Singapore time).
Sunday's test came less than a week after South Korea elected a new president, Mr Moon Jae In, who slammed the latest launch as a "reckless provocation" and said dialogue would be possible "only if the North changes its attitude".
US President Donald Trump had earlier said he would be willing to meet with the North Korean leader "under the right circumstances".
In Seoul, visiting US National Security Council's senior director for East Asia Matt Pottinger said the conditions are not right for dialogue. "We would want to see concrete movement to reduce the threat. Right now the threat is gathering," said Mr Pottinger, following meetings with Mr Moon and South Korean officials.
South Korea's presidential Blue House announced that Mr Trump and Mr Moon will meet in Washington late next month.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS