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The United Nations Security Council has agreed to take tougher measures against North Korea for conducting its second nuclear test on May 25. The measures include a “call” — rather than a demand — that U.N. members inspect suspect cargo transported on ships to and from North Korea, additional financial sanctions, and an expanded trade embargo on the export of weapons to the country. The UNSC’s move is stronger than Resolution 1718, adopted following Pyongyang’s first nuclear test in October 2006.

The North should consider the move a stern warning from the international community and return to the six-party talks, whose ultimate aim is to denuclearize the country in exchange for aid from other member-states in the talks and the opening of diplomatic ties with the United States and Japan.

It took the UNSC a relatively long time to reach agreement because China, which chairs the six-party talks and is North Korea’s largest trade partner, was cautious about taking measures deemed as too strict. Japan and the U.S. had called for mandatory inspection of cargo shipped to and from North Korea, but China preferred an “appropriate and balance” approach to avoid possible military conflict with North Korea. So, the UNSC now “calls upon” all U.N. members to inspect cargo carried to and from North Korea in their territories and to inspect North Korean ships on the high seas with the consent of the flag country — if there is reasonable grounds to believe that the cargo contains nuclear and missile-related materials. Japan needs to weigh the issue of cargo inspections carefully.

The UNSC also calls for expanding the freeze on the assets of North Korean entities and individuals to reduce the likelihood of financial services and sources contributing to Pyongyang’s programs to develop nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction.

Toward the end of May, North Korea said it would not accept UNSC resolutions and decisions. It is also preparing for further ballistic missile test launches. U.N. member nations should faithfully implement the new UNSC decision. If the North carries out further provocative acts, the U.N. should be ready to take additional action against it.

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