UN condemns North Korea rocket launch

The UN Security Council condemned North Korea’s successful rocket launch today and said it will urgently consider “an appropriate response”.

The UN’s most powerful body said in a brief statement after closed consultations that the launch violated Security Council resolutions adopted after North Korea’s nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 and a ban on “any launch using ballistic missile technology”.

The council said that after the North’s failed launch in April it demanded that Pyongyang halt any further launches using ballistic missile technology and expressed its determination to take action in the event of another launch.

“Members of the Security Council will continue consultation on an appropriate response... given the urgency of the matter,” the council statement said.

The successful rocket launch is widely seen as a test which takes North Korea one step closer to being capable of sending a nuclear-tipped warhead as far as California.

North Korean officials said the rocket is meant to send a satellite into orbit to study crops and weather patterns, and Pyongyang maintains its right to develop a civilian space programme.

The closed consultations were attended by the five nations which will join the council on January 1, including South Korea.

South Korea’s UN Ambassador, Kim Sook, told reporters afterwards that the launch was “a blatant violation” of council resolutions and “constitutes a very dangerous challenge to the security of the Republic of Korea and the security situation in Korean peninsula and north-east Asia”.

He said consultations will continue, and “I believe the Security Council will take appropriate action in swift and robust manner”.

US Ambassador Susan Rice praised the council for “one of the swiftest and strongest” initial responses to sanctions violations.

She said members must now “send a clear message that violations have consequences” and told reporters that the United States will be working with other countries “to pursue appropriate action”.

Just before the meeting, the United States and its European allies called for the Security Council to deliver a strong reaction to today’s launch. But whether China, North Korea’s closest ally, will agree to new sanctions remained unclear.

US National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in Washington that “the international community must work in a concerted fashion to send North Korea a clear message that its violations of UN Security Council resolutions have consequences”.

The Security Council has imposed two rounds of sanctions against the North, following each of its nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

After North Korea’s failed rocket launch in April, the council unanimously approved a presidential statement in which it expressed “its determination to take action accordingly in the event of a further DPRK launch or nuclear test”. DPRK are the initials of the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei cautioned in Beijing today that the council’s response should be “prudent and moderate and conducive to maintaining stability and avoiding escalation of the situation”.

But Germany’s UN Ambassador, Peter Wittig, said: “I think it’s time to... send out a clear message to DPRK sooner rather than later.”

Britain’s UN Ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, said that, in his country’s view, the council “should react quickly and should react strongly to this provocation”.

There may be different views in the council on a new resolution, he said, “but we shall be pressing for rapid action”.

Council diplomats have speculated that existing sanctions could be widened to include financial measures and target additional companies and individuals in North Korea.

The council could also consider measures which would lead to more robust implementation of sanctions, the diplomats said.

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