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U.N. Security Council Rebukes North Korea Over Rocket Firing

An apparently new North Korean missile is displayed during a parade in Pyongyang on Sunday. The U.N. Security Council on Monday rebuked the North for launching a long-range rocket that came apart shortly after liftoff on Friday (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan). An apparently new North Korean missile is displayed during a parade in Pyongyang on Sunday. The U.N. Security Council on Monday rebuked the North for launching a long-range rocket that came apart shortly after liftoff on Friday (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan).

The U.N. Security Council on Monday in a unanimous statement rebuked North Korea for firing a rocket last week and demanded the country cease all missile and nuclear testing, Reuters reported (see GSN, April 13).

The rocket broke apart and fell into the Yellow Sea within minutes of takeoff on Friday. Nonetheless, the event drew widespread criticism and an emergency Security Council meeting that same day. That a unanimous statement was reached in a relatively short amount of time demonstrates China's frustration with its longtime ally, according to unidentified U.N. envoys.

The United States and allies said the launch violated the council's prohibition on North Korean ballistic missile activities. Pyongyang said it intended only to send an observation satellite into space.

"The Security Council strongly condemns the... launch by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," according to the presidential statement. "The Security Council demands that the D.P.R.K. not proceed with any further launches using ballistic missile technology and comply with [council] resolutions ... by suspending all activities related to its ballistic missile program."

The 15-member body also urged the council's special panel on North Korean sanctions to inside of 15 days weigh whether additional individuals and companies should be placed on a list of proscribed entities with connections to the nation's missile and atomic programs. The panel is also to examine the potential for prohibiting foreign nations from selling certain additional products to the North.

The Security Council strongly cautioned North Korea it was resolved "to take action accordingly in the event of a further D.P.R.K. launch or nuclear test."

Envoys said no Security Council state has called for new economic penalties against North Korea, which is still weighed down by the heightened sanctions passed in the wake of its second nuclear test in spring 2009. Presidential statements typically carry less force than council resolutions (Louis Charbonneau, Reuters I, April 16).

China, a permanent Security Council member and veto holder, pushed in council discussions for a less harsh response than that sought by the United States, which this month holds the body's rotating presidency, envoys told Reuters. Beijing is Pyongyang's longtime defender and has used its influence in the past to water down measures targeting North Korea (Reuters II, April 16).

The Security Council might have tempered its response due to worries the North might retaliate by detonating an atomic device, as did in May 2009 after receiving a rebuke for what was widely seen as a long-range ballistic missile test the month before, the New York Times reported ahead of Monday's action

Security Council states also have a limited number of potential sanctions that have not previously been put into place against the North (Choe/Sanger, New York Times, April 13).

President Obama on Friday condemned the rocket launch and promised the U.S. government would cooperate with other nations to deepen Pyongyang's pariah status, Reuters reported.

"It's important to know that they've been trying to launch missiles like this for over a decade now and they don't seem to be real good at it," the president told Telemundo. "But obviously this is an area of deep concern."

"We will continue to keep the pressure on them and they'll continue to isolate themselves until they take a different path," Obama said (Jeff Mason, Reuters III, April 13).

The Japanese Choson Sinbo newspaper, which is allied with Pyongyang, said on Monday the Stalinist state would advance activities to fire a rocket even larger than the Unha 3 in accordance with a five-year space research effort. "Scientists and engineers will never give up," Agence France-Presse quoted the newspaper as stating.

On Sunday, the North rolled out at a parade what international analysts think could be a new long-range missile.

Korea Institute for Defense Analyses Ham Hyeong-pil said the new missile looked to have a greater length than the North's intermediate-range Musudan system (see GSN, Dec. 6, 2011).

"The Musudan about [40 feet] long, is believed to have a range of [1,875 - 2,500 miles]," Ham said in an interview with AFP. "But this one appears capable of reaching at least [621 miles] further." 

"It is certain that the North has developed a new long-range missile," according to Ham.

Aeronautics specialist Christian Lardier, who observed the Sunday military parade in Pyongyang, said the missile was a version of the Taepodong and was about 66 feet in length, with a first rocket stage of the same make as that used in Friday's failed Unha 3 launch.

Japanese National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies specialist Narushige Michishita said the newly unveiled missile hints that North Korea is intent on wielding ICBMs but that it is hard to place a military value on the weapon as it has not been tested.

"And yet, psychologically it certainly has an impact as the media are running stories on it, and the North may intend to use it for diplomatic pressure," he said.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies' Tim Huxley said the missile shown at the parade might not be a working model or could be a facsimile of the Unha 3 (Simon Martin, Agence France-Presse/Montreal Gazette, April 16).

Defense experts in South Korea and Japan agreed additional analysis would be necessary to determine whether the object is in fact a working continent-spanning ballistic missile, the Associated Press reported.

"It looked like more than a mock-up, and like it could be intended as an ICBM, but it is very hard to tell at this point," independent Japanese defense analyst Isaku Okabe said (Associated Press/Yahoo!News, April 15).

Kim Jong Un gave his inaugural public address on Sunday, urging North Koreans to work toward a "final victory" in spite of the humiliating rocket attempt, Reuters reported (Maxim Duncan, Reuters IV, April 15).

Pyongyang followed through with the rocket firing even in the face of opposition from his nation's leading economic benefactor, China. That suggests Kim was willing to flout Beijing's wishes or lacked the authority to call off the launch, the Times reported.

If the former scenario is correct, it means Beijing correctly assesses that it has limited leverage over Pyongyang. If the latter scenario is correct, it signals there might be an internal battle for power, according to the Times. Considering the presence of several WMD-production programs inside the country, the possibility of a power play is unsettling for foreign officials.

"Frankly, I'd rather have an unstable Kim Jong Un in charge than a free-for-all where you are wondering who's really in control of the arsenal," a high-ranking U.S. intelligence official said (Choe/Sanger, New York Times).

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