UN vows to tighten sanctions on North Korea

A man walks past a television showing a news report on North Korea's latest missile test in Seoul
A man walks past a television showing a news report on North Korea's latest missile test in Seoul

© AFP JUNG Yeon-Je

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The UN Security Council on Monday vowed to push all countries to tighten sanctions against North Korea as it prepared for a closed-door meeting called in response to the latest missile launch.

In a unanimous statement backed by the North's ally China, the council strongly condemned the test-firing on Sunday and instructed the UN sanctions committee to redouble efforts to implement a series of tough measures adopted last year.

The council also agreed to "take further significant measures including sanctions" to force North Korea to change course and end its "highly destabilizing behavior".

The US-drafted statement was agreed on the eve of the emergency meeting requested by the United States, Japan and South Korea to discuss a course of action on North Korea.

The United States has for weeks been negotiating a new Security Council sanctions resolution with China, but US ambassador Nikki Haley said last week that no final draft text had been clinched.

"This is the same movie that keeps playing. He continues to test. We've got to do action," Haley told MSNBC television.

"You know, some say, 'Oh, but sanctions haven't worked'. First of all, when the entire international community speaks with one voice, it does work," she countered.

"It lets them know that they are on an island and we're all against them and that they need to correct their behavior."

North Korea on Sunday launched the Pukguksong-2, described by Washington as a medium-range missile, from Pukchang in South Pyongan province.

It traveled about 310 miles (500 kilometers) before landing in the Sea of Japan, according to South Korea's armed forces.

- UN urges halt to tests -

The launch was the latest in a series this year as Pyongyang steps up its efforts to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the United States.

"These actions threaten regional and international security," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

"We call on the DPRK (North Korea) to stop further testing and allow space to explore the resumption of meaningful dialogue."

The North, which says it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself against the threat of invasion, later said it "flatly rejected" the UN statement, which had been drawn up by "the US and its followers".

The United States says it is willing to enter into talks with North Korea if it halts its nuclear and missile tests.

Sunday's missile test came as US President Donald Trump was on his first trip abroad, visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, Brussels and Italy.

The latest missile tested uses solid fuel that allows for immediate firing, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

So far almost all the North's missiles have been liquid-fueled, meaning they must be time-consumingly filled with propellant before launch.

Solid-fuel missiles can be fired far more rapidly, dramatically shortening the time available for any attempt to intervene and prevent a launch.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said "with pride" that the Pukguksong-2 was a "very accurate" missile and a "successful strategic weapon," KCNA reported, adding he "approved the deployment of this weapon system for action."

The launch "completely verified" the reliability and accuracy of the device and its late-stage warhead guidance system, KCNA said, adding the test results were "perfect."

The test-firing came just one week after the North launched a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missile, which according to Pyongyang was capable of carrying a "heavy" nuclear warhead.

After that launch, the Security Council met to discuss tightening sanctions but there was no immediate concrete action.

During last week's closed-door meeting, China insisted that there be no mention of a resolution in remarks read by the council president at the end of the meeting, diplomats said.

North Korea has carried out two atomic tests and dozens of missile launches since the beginning of last year.

The Security Council adopted two sanctions resolutions last year to ramp up pressure on Pyongyang and deny leader Kim the hard currency needed to fund his military programs.

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