UN threatens fresh sanctions on North Korea after nuclear test

The UNSC condemns North Korea's 5th nuclear test as a clear threat to global peace, security and says it will start discussing new 'significant measures' against Pyongyang

Seyoon Kim, Hooyeon Kim, Kambiz Foroohar
Updated10 Sep 2016, 11:11 AM IST
A file photo of United Nations headquarters in New York. Photo: AFP<br />
A file photo of United Nations headquarters in New York. Photo: AFP

Seoul/New York: The UN Security Council condemned North Korea’s fifth nuclear test on Friday as a clear threat to international peace and security and said it will start discussing new “significant measures” against Pyongyang.

Security Council members “had previously expressed their determination to take further significant measures in the event of another nuclear test,” said Gerard van Bohemen, New Zealand’s ambassador to the UN, speaking in his capacity as president of the council. “The members of the Security Council will begin work immediately on appropriate measures.”

The test may have shown North Korea overcoming what had been seen as hurdles to the further development of its nuclear weapons capabilities. The official Korean Central News Agency said the detonation showed the regime was now able to produce miniaturized nuclear arms and attach atomic weapons to rockets.

“The standardization of the nuclear warhead will enable the DPRK to produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power,” KCNA said, using the acronym for North Korea. “This has definitely put on a higher level the DPRK’s technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets.”

Also Read: Nuclear realities

Beyond the UN, the test drew opprobrium from world leaders including South Korean President Park Geun Hye and US President Barack Obama.

Park called the North Korean move “maniacal recklessness” and warned that Kim Jong Un’s moves would lead to North Korea’s self-destruction. Obama said the US “does not, and never will, accept North Korea as a nuclear state.” Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said North Korea’s actions were a threat to Japan and the country would consider further sanctions.

The blast set off an artificial earthquake around 9:30am Seoul time, with the defence ministry saying the explosion was 10 kilotons. The United States Geological Survey put the quake magnitude at 5.3. The Pentagon said it will be deploying an aircraft to the region to collect air samples that can help determine the nature of the explosion.

Miniaturization claims

North Korea has a history of exaggerating its nuclear prowess. In 2013 it said it had created nuclear missiles capable of reaching the US, but produced little proof, drawing skepticism from arms experts. In March it unveiled images of what it called a miniaturized warhead.

Pyongyang said after its January test it had detonated a hydrogen bomb for the first time. That was never verified and some nuclear experts and the US cast doubt on the claim.

Korean stocks and the won fell Friday—with the Kospi Index down 1.3%— though analysts said the reaction was somewhat muted. The yen rose.

Also Read: North Korea carries out ‘fifth and biggest nuclear test’

China, which pushed back against some proposed sanctions after North Korea’s last test in January, said it called on Pyongyang to curb its nuclear plans. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China, North Korea’s biggest trading partner, was firmly opposed to the test and that officials would speak to counterparts at the North Korean embassy in Beijing.

Kerry, Lavrov

US secretary of state John Kerry, meeting in Geneva with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday about Syria, said “everybody shares concerns” about North Korea’s latest action. Lavrov said that UN Security Council resolutions “must be implemented and we will send this message very strongly.”

The test came one day after Obama left Asia following his swan song trip as US leader. His visit included a clutch of global summits in China—where he attended a G-20 meeting hosted by President Xi Jinping—and Laos. During those meetings he and the leaders of Japan and South Korea urged stronger action to curb Kim’s nuclear ambitions.

North Korea test-fired a trio of ballistic missiles that landed within a few hundred kilometers of Japan’s coast earlier this week. The regime, which has repeatedly flouted Security Council resolutions barring its ballistic missile activities, has conducted at least 22 launches this year, according to US officials.

China has done more on sanctions against North Korea than previous rounds of penalties but could “tighten up” in prodding Kim, Obama told reporters on Thursday in Laos. Obama said he had told Xi that China needs to “work with us more effectively” to rein Kim in.

Tensions in North Asia have also been running high over a plan to deploy a US missile defence system known as Thaad in South Korea. The Chinese have protested that move, which US officials insist is only intended to protect South Korea. Russia has also objected.

The latest blast probably reflects North Korean efforts to cause further fractures between the US and China over Thaad, said Lee Woo Young, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. “The test would show North Korea’s willingness to break the power balance in the East Asia region.”

Obama said he noted Xi’s objection to Thaad and that the US isn’t looking for a diplomatic tussle over the missile shield. Still, he said, “we cannot have a situation where we’re unable to defend ourselves or our treaty allies against increasingly provocative behaviour.”

“They need to work with us more effectively to change Pyongyang’s behaviour,” Obama said, referring to China.

The big question for the international community is whether it can match its condemnation of North Korea with action, according to Scott Snyder, a senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“A second question is whether the United States and China can set aside strategic mistrust sufficiently to coordinate a set of actions that would make clear that Kim Jong Un’s current path is unacceptable and force him to turn around and accept denuclearization.” Bloomberg

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First Published:10 Sep 2016, 11:11 AM IST
HomenewsworldUN threatens fresh sanctions on North Korea after nuclear test

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