A defiant North Korea

The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution condemning North Korea’s long-range rocket launch in December as a violation of a U.N. ban against its nuclear and missile activity, and extended sanctions against the North.

Reacting strongly to the resolution, North Korea declared that it will resume development of nuclear weapons and hinted that it will carry out its third nuclear test.

If North Korea goes ahead, it will be the first nuclear test under leader Mr. Kim Jong Un — who succeeded his late father Kim Jong Il in December 2011 — and will heighten tensions in and around the Korean Peninsula.

Pyongyang should realize that the UNSC resolution was adopted unanimously, even garnering the support of China, North Korea’s patron. The international community is united in its call for North Korea to end its development of nuclear weapons and missiles. A nuclear explosion test will serve only to deepen North Korea’s isolation and the continuation of sanctions will make it difficult for Pyongyang to build an economically strong country, a goal that Mr. Kim expressed in his New Year message.

The UNSC resolution includes the imposition of an assets freeze and travel bans on six entities and four citizens of North Korea, and calls for the strict surveillance of North Korean financial organizations. It demands that Pyongyang abandon its nuclear weapons program in a “complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.” It also states that if North Korea will carry out further missile or nuclear tests, the UNSC will take “significant action.”

North Korea’s reaction to the UNSC resolution was one of defiance. Its Foreign Ministry stated that the North “will counter the U.S. hostile policy with strength, not with words.”

It also said that the six-party talks and the Sept. 19, 2005, joint statement by the participants in the talks, which included the abandonment of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, “were rendered null” and that there will be “no talks for the denuclearization of the peninsula.”

North Korea’s National Defense Commission on Thursday warned that it will carry out a third nuclear test, describing it as a “nuclear test of higher level,” and that its missiles are capable of carrying war heads that can strike the United States. North Korea previously carried out nuclear tests in October 2006 and May 2009.

Apparently North Korea is adopting a policy of brinkmanship in an effort to change the armistice agreement on Korean War into a permanent peace treaty and to normalize its relations with the U.S. But instead of facilitating the realization of these results, its provocative attitude will only serve to deepen the international community’s distrust of North Korea.

China, which at first opposed the adoption of the UNSC resolution but ultimately supported it, can play a critical role by ensuring that the sanctions against the North will be water-tight and persuading it to change its defiant attitude.

As North Korea’s patron, China has a heavy responsibility to help stabilize the situation on the Korean Peninsula. It should take steps to ensure the success of the international community’s efforts to stop North Korea from becoming a recognized nuclear power.