The United Nations Security Council on Monday “strongly condemned” North Korea for its failed rocket launch three days earlier and announced that it will impose new sanctions. The North’s failed attempt to launch a satellite clearly violates a 2009 UNSC resolution that prohibits it from carrying out any launch that uses ballistic missile technology.
The 15-member UNSC acted swiftly by adopting the presidential statement against the North. Although the statement has no binding power, the swift action shows that both the United States and China, North Korea’s close ally, share a sense of crisis over the possibility that North Korea may carry out a nuclear explosion test following the failed launch.
Pyongyang on Tuesday announced the abrogation of a February deal with Washington, under which the North promised to temporarily halt uranium enrichment and a nuclear explosion test. After the failed launch, Washington decided to halt food aid, part of the deal, to North Korea. The international community, especially the U.S., China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, needs to mobilize every means possible to dissuade North Korea from carrying out a nuclear explosion test. Satellite photos show increased activity in a mountainous area of northeastern North Korea that appears to be preparation for an underground nuclear test.
North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket in July 2006 was followed three months later by its first test detonation of a nuclear explosive device underground. The test prompted a UNSC resolution condemning the North, imposing sanctions on it and prohibiting it from carrying out any ballistic missile launch or nuclear test.
Despite the resolution, North Korea launched a long-range rocket in April 2009 and carried out its second underground nuclear test the next month, inviting further sanctions.
Apparently North Korea’s eventual goal is to possess intercontinental ballistic missiles tipped with nuclear warheads. It clearly wants to use them as leverage in negotiations with the U.S.
The only country that has the power to restrain North Korea is China. Trade with China accounts for some 80 percent of the North’s trade, and the two countries maintain high-level contacts with each other.
The U.S., Japan, South Korea and Russia should persuade in unison China to exert a desirable influence on North Korea. China, for its part, should realize its heavy responsibility.