The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday approved a resolution that strongly rebukes North Korea for firing a long-range rocket into space last month and adds to the list of entities and individuals subject to international sanctions, the New York Times reported.
The 15-member U.N. body passed the resolution without dissent. Securing Chinese support was critical to passage as Beijing has previously used its veto power to block Security Council measures deemed too harsh toward longtime ally Pyongyang.
The United States had wanted new sanctions on North Korea for its rocket launch, which violated Security Council strictures against Pyongyang's use of ballistic missile technology, but could not get Beijing to go that far. Still, Washington cast the council rebuke as a strong message to the North.
The resolution says the Security Council "deplores the violations" of measures prohibiting new ballistic missile and nuclear trials. The measure expands existing council sanctions to cover six more people and four new entities including the Korean Space Technology Committee. The council warned of new punishments should further rocket and missile firings be carried out.
Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Li Baodong noted that the Security Council also called for a return to talks aimed at permanently shuttering the North's nuclear weapons development efforts. The six-nation negotiations have not been held since December 2008.
"We believe that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is at a crossroads. There is an opportunity for all stakeholders on the Korean Peninsula to start the diplomatic track and to avoid the escalation of tension," Li said.
Pyongyang reacted quickly and harshly to the U.N. measure, warning it would speed up development of nuclear arms and spurn calls for a return to moribund aid-for-denuclearization negotiations involving China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States. "We will take measures to boost and strengthen our defensive military power including nuclear deterrence," the North Korean Foreign Ministry said.
There are fears the Stalinist state could respond to the Security Council rebuke with a new nuclear test, as it did in spring 2009 when it was penalized for a rocket launch that was widely seen as a test of strategic ballistic missile capabilities, the Associated Press reported.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday called on the North and other countries to refrain from actions that would further harm regional relations, Kyodo News reported.
Moscow urged the North to abide by Security Council rules. "We hope our North Korean neighbors will heed the voice of the international community and return to the path of cooperation ... but for this it is necessary to stay within the bounds of the demands made in U.N. Security Council resolutions," Reuters quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying.
The South has increased its surveillance of its neighbor's atomic testing grounds, South Korean armed forces said in a Wednesday report by the Yonhap News Agency.
Washington and Seoul are contemplating hitting the North with "additional [domestic] sanctions," a high-ranking envoy in Seoul told Yonhap.