N Korea threatens nuclear expansion

2013-01-23 09:01
Travellers watch a TV screen broadcasting news on North Korea's rocket launch, at a railway station in Seoul. (File, AFP)

Travellers watch a TV screen broadcasting news on North Korea's rocket launch, at a railway station in Seoul. (File, AFP)

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United Nations - On Tuesday the UN Security Council unanimously condemned North Korea's December rocket launch and expanded existing UN sanctions, eliciting a vow from Pyongyang to boost the North's military and nuclear capabilities.

While the resolution approved by the 15-nation council does not impose new sanctions on Pyongyang, diplomats said Beijing's support for it was a significant diplomatic blow to Pyongyang.

The resolution said the council "deplores the violations" by North Korea of its previous resolutions, which banned Pyongyang from conducting further ballistic missile and nuclear tests and from importing materials and technology for those programs.

It also said the council "expresses its determination to take significant action in the event of a further North Korean launch or nuclear test".

Boosting nuclear capabilities

North Korea reacted quickly, saying it would hold no more talks on the de-nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and would boost its military and nuclear capabilities.

"We will take measures to boost and strengthen our defensive military power including nuclear deterrence," its Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA.

Six-party talks aimed at halting North Korea's nuclear program have involved North Korea, the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea. They have been held intermittently since 2003 but have stalled since 2008.

South Korea says the North is technically ready for a third nuclear test, and satellite images show it is actively working on its nuclear site. However, political analysts said they viewed a test as unlikely in the short-term.

"North Korea will likely take a sequenced strategy where the first stage response would be more militarily aggressive actions like another missile launch," said Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

There are concerns that North Korea could stage a test using highly enriched uranium for the first time, which would give it a second path to a nuclear bomb and enable it to preserve its stocks of plutonium, which are believed to be sufficient for about 12 nuclear devices.

The UN resolution added six North Korean entities, including Pyongyang's space agency, the Korean Committee for Space Technology, and the man heading it, Paek Chang-ho, to an existing UN blacklist.

Blacklisted

The firms and individuals will all face an international asset freeze, while Paek and the others blacklisted by Tuesday's resolution -the manager of the rocket launch centre and two North Korean banking officials- will face a global travel ban.

In addition to the space agency, the council blacklisted the Bank of East Land, Korea Kumryong Trading Corp., Tosong Technology Trading Corp., Korea Ryonha Machinery Joint Venture Corp., and Leader (Hong Kong) International.

US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice welcomed the resolution. "This resolution demonstrates to North Korea that there are unanimous and significant consequences for its flagrant violation of its obligations under previous resolutions," she said.

China, the North's only major diplomatic ally, said on Monday that the Security Council needed to pass a cautious resolution on North Korea, adding that this was the best way to ensure regional tensions did not escalate further.

Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong said certain elements in the resolution's original draft, which in China's view would "jeopardize" normal trade between North Korea and other countries, had been removed, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

"Sanctions and resolutions alone do not work," Xinhua quoted him as saying. "Resolutions must be completed and supplemented by diplomatic efforts."

Several diplomats said Beijing's decision to back the resolution sent a strong message to Pyongyang.

"It might not be much, but the Chinese move is significant," a council diplomat told Reuters. "The prospect of a [new] nuclear test might have been a game changer for China."

Read more on:    un  |  north korea  |  north korea nuclear programme
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