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Security Council condemns N. Korea rocket

All 15 Security Council nations have agreed to a statement that would condemn North Korea's rocket launch, a spokesman for the council president said Monday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The U.N. Security Council is condemning North Korea's rocket launch and is expanding sanctions against the reclusive communist nation. It is the council's first response to the April 5 launch.

The council's statement Monday makes clear that the launch violated a 2006 council resolution which bans any missile tests by the country and it demands an end to further launches.

All 15 members agreed on the text and the statement was read at a formal meeting of the U.N.'s most powerful body by the current council president, Mexico's U.N. Ambassador Claude Heller.

The presidential statement was a weaker response than a council resolution which Japan and the United States wanted — but which the North's closest allies China and Russia opposed.

"We want to do everything we can in getting a message to the North Koreans that this type of activity cannot happen again, mustn't happen again," U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said in Washington before the statement was read. "The international community is very focused on this."

Defying international pressure
North Korea carried out the launch in defiance of intense international pressure, claiming it had put a satellite in orbit which is allowed under a U.N. space treaty. The United States, Japan and South Korea claim North Korea was really testing long-range missile technology, which Pyongyang is banned from doing.

A draft of the statement demands that North Korea not conduct further launches. And it reiterates that North Korea must fully implement the 2006 resolution, which also ordered Pyongyang to suspend all ballistic missile activities and "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner."

The statement draft calls for expanding sanctions under the 2006 resolution, which ordered a financial freeze on assets belonging to companies or organizations engaged in supporting North Korean programs related to nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction — and banned specific goods used in those programs.

It asks the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea to report to the council by April 24 on the companies, items, and technologies to be added to the list. If the committee fails to act, it says the Security Council itself will then come up with a list by April 30.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Monday, citing an unnamed South Korean official, that about 10 North Korean companies will likely be blacklisted under expanded sanctions. Foreign Ministry officials were not available Monday evening to confirm the report.

Japan softens demand
The breakthrough in the council's response to the rocket launch came after Japan on Saturday backed down from a demand that the council adopt a resolution, which is the strongest response that the U.N.'s most powerful body can give. China and Russia, the North Koreans' strongest allies, refused to go along with a new resolution, which the United States was also seeking.

But while Japan kept insisting on a resolution, the U.S. indicated it would also accept a strong presidential statement from the council, council diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were held behind closed doors.

While U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said a presidential statement would be legally binding, other diplomats and U.N. officials disagree.

North Korea has warned that any move to censure it at the U.N. could prompt its withdrawal from six-party talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear program. The talks involve China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the U.S.

In the draft statement, the council expresses support for the six-party talks and "calls for their early resumption." It also expresses the council's desire "for a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the situation."