UN Security Council to condemn rocket launch

The United Nations' Security Council is expected to adopt a formal statement calling for tighter sanctions against North Korea after last week's long-range rocket test launch. Pyongyang has warned of "strong steps" in the event of a UN censure.


AFP - The UN Security Council was expected to adopt a formal statement Monday, rebuking North Korea for its long-range rocket launch and calling for a tightening of existing sanctions against Pyongyang.

The non-binding draft was agreed Saturday in closed-door talks among the five permanent members of the council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Japan and was later submitted to the 10 non-permanent council members.

Mexico's UN Ambassador Claude Heller, the council chair this month, told reporters that the compromise text submitted by his US counterpart, Susan Rice, at an impromptu meeting of the 15-member body, "is an excellent basis for a consensual and clear message by the Security Council."

He said a new council meeting was scheduled for Monday afternoon "to approve the statement" that had been sought by Japan.

"What is important is that the Security Council acts in a very unified manner," he added. "I hope this goal will be achieved on Monday with a formal adoption of this draft."

Rice told reporters she hoped the Council would adopt the statement "to send a very clear message to North Korea that what they have done under the guise of a satellite launch is in fact a violation of their obligations and indeed that there are consequences for such actions."

The proposed statement also called for the council "to adjust the measures imposed" in Resolution 1718 to include a tightening of existing sanctions against designated North Korean entities.

The entities once designated "would be subject to an asset freeze and the goods will be prohibited to be transferred to or from the DPRK," Rice said.

A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a number of North Korean companies were to have their assets frozen by the end of the month.

Resolution 1718 provided for the creation of a Security Council panel to monitor sanctions against Pyongyang, but the commission was never activated so as not to jeopardize the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament.

The proposed statement, which falls short of a UN resolution that carries more weight, would also condemn last week's North Korean rocket launch, "which is in contravention of Security Council Resolution 1718."

That resolution, adopted in 2006 after North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, bars Pyongyang from conducting missile-related activities.

The text put forward by the US delegation also urges "a peaceful and diplomatic solution and welcomes efforts by council members as well as other member states to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue."

The talks, hosted by China and including the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia, have stalled since December after Pyongyang refused to agree on ways of verifying its claims on nuclear disarmament moves.

The United States, Japan, Britain and France had pressed for a strong UN response in the form of a resolution to the launch but China and Russia balked and urged restraint so as not to harm prospects for resuming the six-party talks.

Pyongyang has warned of "strong steps" if the United Nations censures it.

But Stephen Bosworth, the US special envoy on North Korea, said before the launch that the United States would work closely with its negotiation partners so that "after the dust of the missile settles a bit, we get back to the longer-term priority" of denuclearization talks.

Charles Pritchard, a US negotiator with North Korea under Bush, said he expected the Obama administration to take a broader approach to North Korea that does not get so tied down to the intractable nuclear issue.

"I can expect that the discussion -- whether in the six-paty talks or bilaterally -- will be on an expanded agenda, one which looks at proliferation as a formal discussion topic," he said.

A presidential statement must be passed by all 15 members of the council, but since major powers are supporting it, passage is seen as likely.

The New York Times reported however that Libya, a rotating Security Council member, expressed reservations Saturday, arguing that launching a satellite for peaceful purposes was the right of all nations.

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