The U.N. Security Council has condemned North Korea's rocket launch and vowed to move "expeditiously" to impose sanctions on the hardline communist state for the defiant action on Sunday as well as its fourth nuclear test last month.
The 15 council members, including the United States, China and Russia, "strongly condemned" the long-range rocket launch" in a statement issued after an emergency meeting in New York on Sunday.
Despite international warnings, North Korea had gone ahead with the rocket launch, which it said had successfully put a satellite into orbit. The United States and its allies said it was a covert ballistic missile test and was in violation of already imposed sanctions against Pyongyang.
Nuclear-armed North Korea is barred under U.N. sanctions from using ballistic missile technology, and the weekend rocket launch came as the council was negotiating how to punish Pyongyang for its nuclear test on Jan. 6.
"The members of the Security Council underscored that this launch, as well as any other DPRK (North Korea) launch that uses ballistic missile technology, even if characterized as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle, contributes to the DPRK’s development of nuclear weapon delivery systems and is a serious violation of [four] Security Council resolutions...," the council statement said.
"They reaffirmed that a clear threat to international peace and security continued to exist, especially in the context of the nuclear test," said the statement issued by Council President Rafael Darío Ramírez Carreno of Venezuela.
The council members, it said, "restated their intent to develop significant measures" in a resolution in response to the nuclear test and rocket launch.
"In line with this commitment and the gravity of this most recent violation, the members of the Security Council will adopt expeditiously a new Security Council resolution with such measures in response to these dangerous and serious violations."
Japan, South Korea and the United States have prepared a draft resolution to impose tough sanctions on North Korea and have been discussing it with other council members for weeks. China, North Korea's top ally, however is believed to be against the measures.
"Urgent that [the U.N. Security Council] come together to pass tough, comprehensive sanctions resolution on #NorthKorea & change calculus of reckless DPRK regime,"
Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., tweeted after the council meeting.
She said the council was "united in condemning [the] illegal missile launch" and "[n]obody [was] fooled" by North Korea's claim about the “'peaceful earth observation' nonsense."
North Korea said its rocket, carrying an Earth observation satellite, blasted off at around 9:00 am Pyongyang time (0030 GMT) and achieved orbit 10 minutes later.
While Power stressed that fresh sanctions should "break new ground" and that it "cannot be business as usual," Chinese UN envoy Liu Jieyi said any new resolution should "do the work of reducing tensions, of working toward denuclearization, of maintaining peace and stability, and of encouraging a negotiated solution."
Economic collapse fears
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin warned: "We should not be looking at an economic collapse of DPRK [North Korea]," Agence-France-Presse reported.
But Japan joined the U.S. in pressing for swift action against North Korea.
"China calls for more dialogue. What we need is no longer dialogue but using the pressure," AFP quoted Japan's Ambassador to the United Nations Motohide Yoshikawa as saying.
One diplomat told Reuters news agency that Washington was hoping to tighten international restrictions on North Korea's banking system, while Beijing was reluctant to support that for fear of worsening conditions in its impoverished neighbor.
"There will eventually be a sanctions resolution," the diplomat said. "China wants any steps to be measured but it wants the council to send a clear message to DPRK that it must comply with council resolutions."
Reported by RFA's Korea Service. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.