- Special Pages
SEOUL/BEIJING: North Korea yesterday formally rejected a UN Security Council resolution that demands an end to its nuclear arms programme, as China called for calm, saying sanctions were not the “fundamental” way to resolve tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Pyongyang said UN sanctions would only make its nuclear and missile programmes stronger, with the foreign ministry hinting at further nuclear tests to come.
In a statement carried by state media, the ministry said the latest sanctions, which were unanimously imposed on Friday by the Security Council, would only lead the country to reinforce its status “as a nuclear weapons state and satellite launcher”.
The sanctions aim to tighten financial restrictions and crack down on North Korea’s attempts to transport banned cargo.
The resolution, the fifth since 2006 aimed at stopping the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme, coincides with a sharp escalation of security tensions on the Korean peninsula after Pyongyang’s third nuclear test on February 12.
“The DPRK, as it did in the past, vehemently denounces and totally rejects the ‘resolution on sanctions’ against the DPRK, a product of the US hostile policy toward it,” the North’s foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement.
DPRK is short for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“The world will clearly see what permanent position the DPRK will reinforce as a nuclear weapons state and satellite launcher as a result of the US attitude of prodding the UNSC into cooking up the ‘resolution.’”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in remarks published yesterday that North Korea’s third nuclear test and threats of military action were “completely unacceptable”.
Asked by Austria’s Profil magazine about North Korea’s nuclear test, military exercises and threats, Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, said: “I find this completely unacceptable and it is also a challenge for the international community.”
He said he had urged the North Korean leadership to focus on the welfare of its own people in the face of serious economic problems.
The North’s sole major ally China has said it wants sanctions fully implemented, but Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told a news conference yesterday the best way to resolve the problem was still through dialogue.
“We always believe that sanctions are not the end of Security Council actions, nor are sanctions the fundamental way to resolve the relevant issues,” Yang said, urging all sides to exercise calm and restraint.
“The only right way to resolve the issue is to take a holistic approach and resolve the concerns of all parties involved in a comprehensive and balanced manner through dialogue and consultations.”
The North’s nuclear test in February was its largest yet in terms of apparent yield, but outside monitors have been unable to confirm the North’s claim that it had successfully detonated a miniaturised device.
Experts are split on whether North Korea has the ability to fit a warhead on a rocket, although there is general agreement that it is years from developing a genuine inter-continental ballistic missile.
The sanctions are designed to make punitive measures more like those used against Iran, which Western officials say have been surprisingly successful.
Analysts say China’s leaders have become increasingly irritated with North Korea and its recent actions have sparked policy debate within China, but caution that Beijing is not likely to give up on its old friend any time soon.
“The calculus in China is changing to the point where it is starting to ask the question: Is North Korea more of a liability than a benefit?” said Paul Haenle, former China Director on the US National Security Council and White House representative to the Six Party Talks. “What Yang Jiechi said today is a reflection that it will not be taking actions with respect to North Korea that will cause more instability. It will not change its policy overnight and abandon North Korea.”