China joined other members of the U.N. Security Council Monday in strongly condemning North Korea's defiant but unsuccessful rocket launch last week and warning the rogue nuclear state of further action if it conducts another nuclear test.
It is rare for the council to reach a swift unanimous decision on North Korea. China's decision especially to join the other 14 members of the key U.N. panel in reprimanding its close ally could have reflected its anger over Pyongyang's defiance.
"The Security Council strongly condemns the April 13, 2012 launch by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)," according to a text of the U.N. Security Council statement.
North Korea had said that the rocket was intended to launch a weather satellite, but the council said "any launch that uses ballistic missile technology, even if characterized as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle, is a serious violation of U.N. resolutions."
"The Security Council deplores that such a launch has caused grave security concerns in the region."
In another blow to North Korea, the council moved to tighten sanctions against the nuclear-armed and reclusive state.
It asked the a U.N. panel monitoring sanctions against Pyongyang to make preparations to add new firms and individuals to its sanctions blacklist within 15 days as well as additional goods that North Korea would be banned from importing.
If the panel fails to do so, the council itself will take action within five days to expand the sanctions list, according to the statement.
The statement concluded with a warning of further action if Pyongyang carries out another missile launch or nuclear test, demanding that it "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner."
"The Security Council expresses its determination to take action accordingly in the event of a further DPRK launch or nuclear test," it said.
U.S. envoy to the United Nations Susan Rice, the council president for April, said the swift and unanimous adoption of the strong statement "shows that the international community is united in sending a clear message to North Korea that such provocations are serious and totally unacceptable."
The statement "is stronger and more explicit than the one the Security Council adopted in 2009 in reaction to North Korea’s last launch," she told reporters in New York, according to remarks provided by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.
"It was also adopted with unprecedented speed."
Rice warned that any new nuclear test by North Korea would be "met with determination".
"I'm not going to comment on intelligence matters but there is the fact of history that in 2006 a launch was followed by a nuclear test; the same was true in 2009," she said.
According to recent South Korean intelligence, satellite imagery indicated that Pyongyang is excavating a new tunnel at its Punggye-ri test site, in the northeast of the country, where the two previous tests were carried out in October 2006 and May 2009.
The information shows what looks like preparations for a third nuclear test, analysts said.
In 2009, the Security Council took weeks to agree on a response to North Korea's nuclear test, as it did last year when the hardline communist state was accused of sinking a South Korean warship.
"China has sent a strong message to its close ally by signing up to this statement now and so quickly," one Security Council diplomat told Agence France-Presse, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Following the council decision, China's official Xinhua news agency said Beijing wants more dialogue and consultations over the issue.
"It has been proven that dialogue and consultations are the only correct way to solve problems," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said.
Liu said the Security Council statement was a result of consultations by all members of the UN Security Council and reflects the basic consensus of the international community.
Reported by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.