UN chief Ban Ki-moon has voiced hope that prompt Security Council action will spur resumption of six-way talks on North Korea's nuclear programme, hours after South Korea slapped new sanctions on Pyongyang over the sinking of a warship in March.
REUTERS - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday he was confident the Security Council would take "appropriate" measures regarding the alleged sinking of a South Korean naval ship by North Korea.
"I'm confident that the council, in fulfilling its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, will take measures appropriate to the gravity of the situation," Ban told reporters at a monthly news conference.
"I do hope that the council's prompt action will also contribute to the early resumption of the six-party talks to address nuclear issues and other outstanding concerns," he said.
The stalled six-party aid-for-disarmament talks included North and South Korea, China, Russia, the United States and Japan. North Korea is currently under U.N. sanctions for testing nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said in a nationally televised address that he would take the issue to the 15-nation U.N. Security Council, whose past sanctions are already sapping what little energy North Korea's economy has left.
"Pursuant to (Lee's) call for the Security Council to address the matter, close consultations are expected to take place among key members of the council," Ban said.
U.N. diplomats say it is unclear what, if anything, the 15-nation council could do on the Korea crisis. North Korea's ally China holds a veto and could block any attempt to rebuke or punish Pyongyang.
The secretary-general, a former South Korean foreign minister, did not make any suggestions on specific measures the Security Council should take. But his remarks could ratchet up the pressure on China not to block all council action.
But Ban made clear that the international community could not ignore the results of an international investigation, which accused North Korea of torpedoing the Cheonan corvette in March, killing 46 sailors in one of the deadliest clashes between the two since the 1950-53 Korean War.
"Such an unacceptable act by the DPRK (North Korea) runs counter to international efforts to promote peace and stability in the region," Ban said.
Ban added that the United Nations would continue delivering humanitarian aid to impoverished North Korea.