UNITED NATIONS (AP) ― The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution condemning North Korea’s rocket launch in December and imposing new sanctions on Pyongyang’s space agency.
The multi-stage rocket launch is considered part of a covert program to develop ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.
The council reiterated its previous demand that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program in a “complete, verifiable and irreversible manner” and cease launches.
China joined in approving the resolution, the first resolution in four years to expand the sanctions regime on North Korea.
“We believe that action taken by the Council should be prudent, measured, proportionate, and conducive to stability,” Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong said after the vote.
|China’s Ambassador to the U.N. Li Baodong (left) and France’s Ambassador to the U.N. Gerard Araud vote during a Security Council meeting on non-proliferation and North Korea at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday. ( AFP-Yonhap News)|
China’s agreement to join a resolution is a step away from the protection it usually gives to North Korea, its neighbor, which it supported in the Korean War in the early 1950s against U.S.-led U.N. troops.
China is seen as North Korea’s closest ally, and its protection of North Korea meant that the Security Council previously denounced North Korea’s launches with non-binding council statements, which are unenforceable.
North Korea sent a satellite into space on Dec. 12 aboard a long-range rocket, a launch that the U.S. and its allies have criticized as a test of banned ballistic missile technology. Pyongyang maintains the launch was a peaceful bid to send a satellite into space and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un cited its success in his New Year’s Day speech.
In 2006 and 2009, Pyongyang conducted atomic tests after being slapped with Security Council condemnation and sanctions for similar launches of long-range rockets.
Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from any use of ballistic missile technology, even if characterized as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle.
The resolution imposes new sanctions under existing authorities on North Korean companies and government agencies, including North Korea’s space agency and several individuals.
It also updates lists of nuclear and ballistic missile technology banned for transfer to and from North Korea and includes several new provisions targeting North Korea’s smuggling of sensitive items that could contribute to the prohibited programs.
In its talks with China, the U.S. had to agree that the resolution would not bring in new forms of sanctions but would build on the existing Security Council sanction regimes.
“”We hope that all relevant sides can, with a view to maintaining peace and stability, stay calm and restrained, and avoid all acts that will escalate tension, which is conducive to the interest of all sides,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing on Wednesday. He stressed the importance of moving ahead with the six-nation, aid-for-disarmament talks.
It is believed that China may have been willing to join the new resolution because satellite surveillance has shown activity at North Korea’s nuclear blast test sites suggesting another atomic test may be imminent.