Tens of thousands of North Koreans attend a mass rally at Kim Il Sung Square in
Pyongyang, North Korea to celebrate the April 5th launch of the country's rocket.

UN Will Condemn North Korea for Alleged Missile Launch

April 13, 2009 11:30 AM
by Rachel Balik
After the U.S., Japan and South Korea publicly opposed North Korea's rocket launch last week, the UN has agreed to reinstate sanctions against the country.

UN Unites to Call for Sanctions

Although China and Russia initially resisted the idea of a strong response to North Korea's rocket launch, both countries have agreed to support the United States in a UN draft calling for renewed sanctions against the country. The statement was drafted by the U.S. after a meeting of the five permanent council members and Japan, Reuters reports. It claims North Korea was violating international law and asks the U.N. Sanctions Committee to revive sanctions placed on the country in 2006, which were not upheld.

The support of the six countries is a strong indication that the draft will be ratified by the 15 member nations of the Security Council. For the past week, China and Russia have been opposed to such a draft, but have finally agreed to condemn North Korea's behavior. Initially, the two countries did not dispute North Korea's assertion that rocket was a satellite. China still refused to issue a Council resolution, and insisted that the draft be a presidential statement, which not as strong as a resolution.

The U.S., which drafted the statement, is pleased with the outcome. President Obama had urged for a strong response, and although there is no resolution, the unanimous agreement to issue a presidential statement condemning North Korea is a "qualified victory" for the Obama administration, The London Times says. The strengthened sanctions will include the placing of 11 North Korean companies and banks on a blacklist.

Background: Launch Puts Japan on High Alert; World Powers Divided Over Response

France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy declared that "This is a regime that has placed itself outside international law," after North Korea launched a long-range rocket into orbit on Sunday, April 5. The launch of the rocket was a test of North Korea’s ability to fire a ballistic missile, analysts said. A Security Council directive from 2006 banned North Korea from performing such tests. The United States, Japan and France expressed anger while China and Russia urged “calm and restraint,” Reuters reported.
The missile was launched at approximately 11:30 a.m. local time on April 5. Japan went on high alert in the event of falling debris, though the rocket landed in the water and no one was harmed, Voice of America reported. North Korea claimed that the launch was part of a peaceful satellite test, but the Japanese government said regardless of whether it was a satellite or missile test, it still violated Security Council sanctions.

President Barack Obama had warned the North Korean government not to fire the missile, and Pyongyang’s decision to proceed with its plans was considered an act of hostility by the United States, Japan and South Korea. Obama said that North Korea had violated the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, the Washington Times reported.

Japan’s reaction was the strongest; the government called for an emergency meeting of the U.N Security Council this afternoon to discuss the launch.

White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs noted that North Korea, although hostile in principle, frequently fails in its military endeavors, and the launch of the recent rocket was no exception. Reports say it failed to enter orbit.

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Opinion and Analysis: Was it A Missile, and Will the Statement Make a Difference?

An official told the Financial Times that was no way to confirm if the rocket was indeed a ballistic missile. He said that while there is no indication that North Korea is planning future missile launches, there is not enough data to say whether North Korea is testing long-range missiles.

It was this uncertainty that led China to resist writing a UN resolution against North Korea; as a result, there may be few actual repercussions. The presidential statement, although it will recommend sanctions, is not binding. As in 2006, the sanctions may be dropped or ignored.

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