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The sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council against North Korea represent a unified message from the U.N. member countries reprimanding the North for its underground nuclear test on Oct. 9. The unanimous adoption of a resolution imposing the sanctions less than a week after the test testifies to the grave concern of the international community and how united it is in its determination to resolve the issue. The resolution is far more severe than the one the UNSC adopted following Pyongyang’s July 5 test-firing of seven ballistic missiles. This is the first time that the U.N. has adopted sanctions against Pyongyang since it joined the world body in 1991.

The resolution emerged from consultations among the five permanent members of the security council — the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France — and Japan, president of the council for the month. After the 15 members of the council adopted the resolution, North Korea called it “unjustifiable” and rejected it. North Korean ambassador to the U.N. Pak Gil Yon said: “It is gangster-like for the Security Council to have adopted today a coercive resolution while neglecting the nuclear threat and moves for sanctions and pressure of the U.S. against the DPRK (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).” But the fact that China and Russia, North Korea’s traditional allies, also supported the sanctions shows that Pyongyang has further isolated itself from the international community. It should now be clear to Pyongyang that the international community will not tolerate North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program.

The binding resolution demands that North Korea does “not conduct any further nuclear test or launch of a ballistic missile.” It says that the DPRK should suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program and re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launching. It calls on the North to “abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner,” and to return immediately to the six-party talks without precondition — negotiations among the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas to solve the issue of the North’s nuclear weapons program — and to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. North Korea should respond to these calls with sincerity. Pyongyang should note that the resolution says the sanctions could be strengthened or lifted depending on the North’s future behavior.

In the negotiations among the five UNSC permanent member nations and Japan, the U.S. originally called on the U.N. member countries to act under the entire Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which provides for military options under the world body as well as international economic sanctions. But concessions were made to China and Russia, which were worried about possible use of military force. Thus the member nations will act under Article 41 of Chapter 7 providing for economic sanctions.

Although the resolution rules out military action, its message should be clear enough to North Korea. It bans trade in materials that could contribute to Pyongyang’s nuclear-, ballistic missile- and other weapons of mass destruction-related programs as well as in conventional weapons — including war planes, battle tanks and missile systems. It also bans trade in luxury goods. Financial assets of individuals and institutions linked to North Korea’s weapons programs will be frozen and those concerned will be prohibited from traveling abroad. Earlier, Japan imposed tough sanctions on the North, banning North Korean imports, North Korean ships entering Japanese ports and entry by North Korean nationals.

To prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear and other WMD, the resolution also calls on the U.N. members to take cooperative actions including inspections of cargo to and from North Korea. Although this is not mandatory, the U.S. is expected to carry out such inspections. The Japanese government is reported ready to provide logistic support to the U.S. forces carrying out the inspections, by invoking a 1999 law dealing with emergencies in Japan’s vicinity. Utmost care, however, must be taken in this matter because unforeseen developments could result. The international community should not completely ignore Ambassador Pak’s statement that Pyongyang regards U.S. pressure as a “declaration of war” and is prepared to take physical countermeasures.

It is unrealistic to expect that the punitive measures included in the UNSC resolution alone will induce North Korea to give up its nuclear-weapons program. The U.S., Japan, China, South Korea and Russia need to pursue diplomatic means while faithfully executing the sanctions. In particular, they should seek ways to open direct talks between the U.S. and North Korea — something the North wants most — within the framework of the six-party talks.

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