United Nations (AFP) June 12, 2009
The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously to slap tougher sanctions on North Korea to cripple its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
Washington hailed Friday's measure, but warned that Pyongyang might respond with "further provocation."
All 15 Security Council members endorsed a compromise resolution sponsored by Britain, France, Japan, South Korea and the United States to punish the Stalinist state for its missile firings and May 25 underground nuclear test.
Resolution 1874, which does not authorise the use of force, calls on UN member states to expand sanctions first imposed on North Korea after its first nuclear test in 2006.
It calls for tougher inspections of cargo suspected of containing banned items related to North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile activities, a tighter arms embargo with the exception of light weapons, and new targeted financial restrictions to choke off an important source of revenue for Pyongyang's nuclear and missile sectors.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the resolution sent a "clear and strong message" to Pyongyang.
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said from Washington that "based on past experience and a pattern that North Korea has of reckless and dangerous actions, it would not be a surprise if North Korea reacted to this very tough sanctions regime in a fashion that would be further provocation."
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, whose country feels the most threatened by the North Korean actions, said: "We demand North Korea take seriously the international community's unbending message in the resolution and comply with it."
The compromise resolution "condemns in the strongest terms" the North Korean nuclear test and "demands that the DPRK (North Korea) not conduct any further nuclear test or any launch using ballistic missile technology."
It declares that Pyongyang "shall abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner and immediately cease all related activities."
But US intelligence officials have reportedly warned President Barack Obama that Pyongyang intends to respond to a UN resolution condemning its actions with another nuclear test.
Asked how the Council would react to any new North Korean test, Britain's UN deputy ambassador Philip Parham said: "We would take it badly. But we can't speculate now" on the Council response.
A key question will be whether China, which maintains close economic ties with Pyongyang, will seriously implement the sanctions.
A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that "the Chinese and Russians have greater concern about the risk of provoking North Korea" and moved to dilute some of the mandatory measures sought by the United States and its allies.
China's UN Ambassador Zhang Yesui told reporters after the vote that the issue of cargo inspections is "very complicated and sensitive."
"The countries concerned have to act prudently in accordance with international and domestic laws" and with "sufficient evidence," he noted. "Under no circumstances should there be the use of force or the threat of use of force."
Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin also underscored that the resolution "does not provide for the use of military force" in implementing the sanctions.
Rice, meanwhile, said Washington would step up efforts to gather information to determine whether a vessel on the high seas is carrying suspect cargo and would try to immediately pass it on to all states concerned.
"If a vessel is designated as one we're concerned about, we are prepared to confront that vessel and seek to board it consensually," she added.
The resolution gives 30 days to a UN sanctions panel to extend a list of North Korean entities, goods and individuals to be subjected to an assets freeze and travel ban decreed in a 2006 resolution.
South Korea welcomed tougher the sanctions Saturday, urging the communist state to abolish all of its nuclear programmes.
"The government welcomes and supports the unanimous adoption of additional sanctions against North Korea by the UN Security Council," Seoul's foreign ministry said in a statement.
In Japan news reports Saturday said the government was planning to impose a total ban on exports to North Korea
Meanwhile, on the ground, South Korean military officials said hundreds of more Marines had been dispatched to its tense border with the North.
earlier related report
US intelligence officials believe Pyongyang will respond to the UN Security Council resolution with a third atomic test, according to sources quoted by American TV networks.
More Marines were sent last week to two islands along the disputed Yellow Sea border, the scene of bloody naval battles in 1999 and 2002, a Marine Corps source told AFP.
He gave no figures but Yonhap news agency said more than 600 had been sent to Yeonpyeong and Baekryeong islands to reinforce the present garrisons.
The North followed up its second nuclear test on May 25 by launching short-range missiles, renouncing the armistice on the Korean peninsula and threatening possible attacks on its neighbour.
It is also pressuring South Korean firms at the Kaesong joint industrial estate north of the border -- the last reconciliation project between the two nations -- by demanding huge rent and wage increases.
Fox News said US intelligence officials have warned President Barack Obama that the North would respond to the UN resolution with another nuclear test. South Korea's defence ministry said this was a possibility.
The UN Security Council voted unanimously Friday to adopt tougher sanctions targeting North Korea's atomic and ballistic missile programmes.
All 15 members endorsed a resolution sponsored by Britain, France, Japan, South Korea and the United States.
The text, which does not authorise the use of force, calls on UN member states to slap expanded sanctions on North Korea in response to its May 25 underground nuclear test and subsequent missile firings.
These include tougher inspections of cargo suspected of containing banned items related to North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile activities, a tighter arms embargo with the exception of light weapons and new financial restrictions.
South Korea Saturday praised the UN Security Council resolution, and called on Pyongyang to accept its "clear and decisive message," Yonhap said, quoting foreign ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young.
US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice has said the resolution will signal that North Korea "must pay a price, return without conditions to a process of negotiation and that the consequences they will face are significant."
In addition to its nuclear confrontation the North is bitterly at odds with South Korea's conservative administration, which rolled back the "sunshine" engagement policy followed by previous liberal governments.
On Thursday the North demanded that South Korean firms in Kaesong raise wages for its 40,000 workers to 300 dollars a month from around 75 dollars currently.
It also called for an increase in rent for the Seoul-funded estate to 500 million dollars, compared to the current 16 million dollars for a 50-year contract.
Shocked factory bosses on Friday rejected the demands, saying they already face "unbearable operational losses" due to the soured cross-border relations.
"The Kaesong industrial zone, which was born from the desire for national reconciliation and co-prosperity, now faces a critical moment because of political tensions," the 106 firms at the estate said in a joint statement.
Analysts said they were unsure whether Pyongyang's real aim is to shut down Kaesong or whether it is still open to negotiation.
The impoverished North received 26 million dollars from South Korean firms last year in wages, which are paid to state entities and not to the workforce.
Some analysts say it may be willing to forgo the cash because it fears the effects of exposing its workers to the South Korean lifestyle.
"By making a demand which the South finds hard to accept, Pyongyang seems to be moving to shut down Kaesong, holding the South Korean government responsible for the closure," Yang Moo-Jin of Seoul's University of North Korean Studies told AFP.
At Thursday's meeting Seoul again raised the case of a South Korean manager at Kaesong who has been detained by the North since March 30, but failed to gain access to him.
The man was held for allegedly criticising the North's political system and trying to persuade a female worker to defect.
Pyongyang is separately holding two US women journalists detained along its border on March 17 while researching a story.
They were sentenced Monday to 12 years of "reform through labour" for what state media called an illegal border crossing and an unspecified "grave crime."
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SKorea mulls response to NKorea's demands over Kaesong
Seoul (AFP) June 12, 2009
South Korea mulled its response Friday after North Korea demanded huge extra payments for a jointly-run industrial estate, casting doubt over the future of their last reconciliation project. The demands were made Thursday at a meeting already overshadowed by the North's nuclear test and a sharp rise in border tensions, after Pyongyang scrapped the armistice in force on the peninsula. The ... read more
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