UN Security Council condemns North Korea missile test, vows sanctions

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned North Korea over its launch of a ballistic missile.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned North Korea over its launch of a ballistic missile. PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - The UN Security Council on Monday (May 15) strongly condemned North Korea's latest ballistic missile test and vowed to take further measures including sanctions in response to Pyongyang's "highly destabilising behaviour."

In a unanimous statement backed by China, the council stressed the importance of North Korea "immediately showing sincere commitment to denuclearisation through concrete action."

Council members demanded that North Korea "conduct no further nuclear and ballistic missiles tests," in what appeared to be a final warning to North Korea before a new wave of sanctions could be adopted.

But a North Korean diplomat told the UN Conference on Disarmament on Tuesday (May 16) that the latest missile test-launch was a legitimate act of self-defence under international law and US criticism of it was a “wanton violation of the sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK". The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is the formal name of North Korea.

“The DPRK will bolster its self-defence capabilities as long as the United States continues its hostile policies towards the DPRK and imposes nuclear threats and makes blackmail,” North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Choi said.

The adoption of the US-drafted statement came ahead of an emergency closed-door session of the council on Tuesday called by the United States and Japan to discuss the missile launch.

North Korea on Sunday tested what appears to be its longest-range ballistic missile to date, saying it was capable of carrying a "heavy nuclear warhead."

Pyongyang has carried out two atomic tests and dozens of missile launches since the beginning of last year in its quest to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental United States.

The Security Council adopted two sanctions resolutions last year to ramp up pressure on Pyongyang and deny leader Kim Jong Un the hard currency needed to fund his military programmes.

In all, six sets of sanctions have been imposed on North Korea since it first tested an atomic device in 2006.

ALL SANCTIONS TO BE APPLIED

In the statement, all members including China, North Korea's main ally and trading partner, "vowed to fully implement all measures imposed" on North Korea and to "strongly urge" other countries to follow suit.

That signalled a new phase in applying sanctions that curb exports of coal from North Korea, impose severe restrictions on banking and ban sales of luxury goods and equipment that could be of use to the military.

The council expressed its "utmost concern" over North Korea's "highly destabilizing behavior and flagrant and provocative defiance of the Security Council."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned Pyongyang over the missile launch and urged it return to denuclearisation.

"This action is in violation of Security Council resolutions and a threat to peace and security in the region," Guterres said in a statement issued by his spokesman.

Under UN resolutions, North Korea is barred from developing nuclear and missile technology.

The United States is also in talks with China on a possible new sanctions resolution that would ratchet up the pressure on Pyongyang.

"There's a lot of sanctions left that we can start to do, whether it's with oil, whether it's with energy, whether it's with their maritime ships, exports," US Ambassador Nikki Haley told ABC television's "This Week."

"We can do a lot of different things that we haven't done yet. So our options are there."

The council is expected to discuss the next steps during its meeting starting around 2000 GMT Tuesday (4am Wednesday, Singapore time).