After North Korea’s rocket launch, UN vows to strengthen sanctions

February 8, 2016 11:00 am

A vehicle carrying a PAC-3 missile interceptor arrives at a port on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa prefecture, southwestern Japan. Photo / AP
The UN Security Council has issued a statement strongly condemning ’s rocket launch and pledging to “expeditiously” adopt a new resolution with “significant” new sanctions.

The statement approved by all 15 council members at an emergency meeting yesterday underscored that launches using ballistic missile technology, “even if characterised as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle” contribute to North Korea’s development of systems to deliver nuclear weapons.
It stressed that using ballistic missile technology is a violation of four Security Council resolutions dating back to 2006.
The statement also expresses the council’s commitment “to continue working toward a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation leading to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.
For North Korea’s propaganda machine, the long-range rocket launch yesterday carved a glorious trail of “fascinating vapour” through the clear blue sky.

For South Korea’s president, and other world leaders, it was a banned test of dangerous ballistic missile technology and yet another “intolerable provocation”.
The rocket was launched from North Korea’s west coast only two hours after an eight-day launch window opened, its path tracked separately by the United States, Japan and South Korea.
No damage from debris was reported. North Korea, which calls its launches part of a peaceful space programme, said it had successfully put a new Earth observation satellite, the Kwangmyongsong 4, or Shining Star 4, into orbit less than 10 minutes after lift off.
It vowed more such launches. A US official said it might take days to assess whether the launch was a success.
The launch follows North Korea’s widely disputed claim last month to have tested a hydrogen bomb.
The United States and China have been working on a new sanctions resolution since North Korea’s nuclear test on January 6.
North Korean rocket and nuclear tests are seen as crucial steps toward the North’s ultimate goal of a nuclear armed missile that could hit the US mainland.
North Korea under leader Kim Jong-un has pledged to bolster its nuclear arsenal unless Washington scraps what Pyongyang calls a hostile policy meant to collapse Kim’s government.
In a development that will worry both Pyongyang and Beijing, a senior South Korean Defence Ministry official, Yoo Jeh Seung, said Seoul and Washington have agreed to begin talks on a possible deployment of the terminal high altitude area defence (Thadd) missile defence system in South Korea.
North Korea has long decried the 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea, and Beijing would see a South Korean deployment of Thadd, which is one of the world’s most advanced missile defence systems, as a threat to its interests in the region.
North Korea’s National Aerospace Development Administration, in typical propaganda-laden language, praised “the fascinating vapour of Juche satellite trailing in the clear and blue sky in spring of February on the threshold of the Day of the Shining Star.”
Juche is a North Korean philosophy focusing on self-reliance; the Day of the Shining Star refers to the February 16 birthday of former dictator Kim Jong-il.
North Korea has previously staged rocket launches to mark important anniversaries.
South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said a South Korean Aegis-equipped destroyer detected the North Korean launch at 9.31am.
The rocket’s first stage fell off North Korea’s west coast at 9.32am, and the rocket disappeared from South Korean radars at 9.36am off the southwestern coast.
There was no reported damage in South Korea. The US Strategic Command issued a statement saying that it detected and tracked a missile launched on a southern trajectory, but that it did not pose a threat to the United States or its allies.
Japanese broadcaster NHK showed video of an object visible in the skies from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa that was believed to be the rocket.
South Korea’s Yonhap agency later backed away, without elaborating, from a report that said the rocket might have failed.
“South Korean opposition lawmaker Shin Kyung-min said the National Intelligence Service believes that the rocket’s payload satellite was about twice as heavy as the 100kg satellite it launched in 2012. The NIS estimates that if the rocket would have been used as a missile, it would have had a potential range of about 5500km, Shin said.
Kim Jong-un has overseen two of the North’s four nuclear tests and three long-range rocket launches since taking over after the death of his father, dictator Kim Jong-il, in late 2011.
The UN Security Council prohibits North Korea from nuclear and ballistic missile activity. Experts say that ballistic missiles and rockets in satellite launches share similar bodies, engines and other technology.
“If North Korea has only nuclear weapons, that’s not that intimidating. If they have only rockets, that’s not that intimidating, either. But if they have both of them, that means they can attack any target on Earth. So it becomes a global issue,” said Kwon Sejin, a professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
In 2013, North Korea conducted a nuclear test and then unnerved the international community by orchestrating an escalating campaign, including threats to fire nuclear missiles at the US and Seoul.
North Korea has spent decades trying to develop operational nuclear weapons. It has said that plutonium and highly enriched uranium facilities at its main Nyongbyon nuclear complex are in operation.
The North is thought to have a small arsenal of crude atomic bombs and an impressive array of short- and medium-range missiles. But it has yet to demonstrate that it can produce nuclear bombs small enough to place on a missile, or missiles that can reliably deliver its bombs to faraway targets.
After several failures testing a multistage, long-range rocket, it put its first satellite into space with a long-range rocket launched in December 2012.
The North’s recent activity comes amid a long-standing diplomatic stalemate. Six-nation negotiations on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear programme in exchange for aid fell apart in early 2009.

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