Friday 23 March 2018

UN condemns North Korea rocket launch and pledges new sanctions

Thousands of North Koreans gather at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang to celebrate the satellite launch (AP)
Thousands of North Koreans gather at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang to celebrate the satellite launch (AP)

The UN Security Council condemned North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket that world leaders called a banned test of ballistic missile technology.

The UN's most powerful body pledged to quickly adopt a new resolution with "significant" new sanctions.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un went ahead with the launch just two hours after an eight-day window opened early on Sunday, and a month after the country's fourth nuclear test.

He ignored an appeal from China, its neighbour and key ally, not to proceed, and, in another slap to Beijing, he chose the eve of the Chinese New Year, the country's most important holiday.

In a reflection of heightened hostilities between the rival Koreas, Seoul's defence ministry said a South Korean naval vessel fired five shots into the water as a warning when a North Korean patrol boat briefly moved south of the countries' disputed boundary line in the Yellow Sea.

Since its January 6 nuclear test, which the North claimed was a powerful hydrogen bomb, despite outside scepticism, China and the US have been negotiating the text of a new Security Council sanctions resolution.

North Korean rocket launches and nuclear tests are seen as crucial steps toward Pyongyang's ultimate goal of a nuclear-armed missile that could hit the US mainland.

At the UN, the US, backed by its allies, Japan and South Korea, wants tough sanctions reflecting Mr Kim's defiance of the Security Council.

But diplomats say China, the North's key protector in the council, is reluctant to impose economic measures that could cause North Korea's economy to collapse - and a flight of North Koreans into China across their shared border.

The 15-member Security Council strongly condemned the launch and pledged to "expeditiously" adopt a new resolution with "further significant measures" - UN code for sanctions.

US ambassador Samantha Power told reporters that "it cannot be business as usual" after two successive North Korean acts that are "hostile and illegal".

However, China's UN ambassador, Liu Jieyi, made clear that unprecedented sanctions are not Beijing's priority.

North Korea, which calls its launches part of a peaceful space programme, said it had successfully put a new Earth observation satellite, the Kwangmyongsong 4, or Shining Star 4, into orbit less than 10 minutes after lift-off.

Japan's UN ambassador, Motohide Yoshikawa, told reporters the missile, which went over Japan and landed near the Philippines, was "a clear threat to the lives of many people".

The Security Council said launches using ballistic missile technology contribute to North Korea's development of systems to deliver nuclear weapons and violate four Security Council resolutions dating back to the North's first nuclear test in 2006.

In a development that will worry both Pyongyang and Beijing, Seoul and Washington have agreed to begin talks on a possible deployment of the THAAD missile-defence system in South Korea.

North Korea has long condemned the 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea, and Beijing would see a South Korean deployment of THAAD, which is one of the world's most advanced missile-defence systems, as a threat to its interests in the region.

Press Association

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