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UN Unanimously Adopts North Korea Sanctions

The U.N. Security Council has adopted a resolution condemning North Korea's missile tests, and imposing weapons-related sanctions on the Pyongyang government. North Korea immediately rejected the measure, and vowed to continue its missile program.

The strongly-worded measure was adopted unanimously Saturday, after 10 days of intense and difficult negotiations, both in New York and in world capitals. The final details were agreed among leaders attending the G-8 summit in Russia.

Japan led the push for legally-binding sanctions, after North Korea staged seven ballistic missile tests early this month. Many of the missiles fell into the Sea of Japan.

Japan's vice-foreign minister, Shintaro Ito, was the first to take the floor following the Council vote. Referring to North Korea by its formal initials, DPRK, he called the missile tests "reckless and condemnable," and hailed the resolution as a "milestone." "These missile launches pose direct threat to the security of Japan and other countries, but the nature of the threat becomes far more serious in light of the DPRK claim it has developed nuclear weapons," he said.

But North Korea's U.N. ambassador, Pak Gil Yon, angrily rejected the measure, calling the Security Council's action "unjustifiable and gangster-like," and accusing the United States of what he called "strategic blackmail." "The delegation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea resolutely condemns the attempt of some countries to misuse the Security Council for the despicable political aim to isolate and put pressure on the DPRK, and totally rejects the resolution, which was adopted," he said.

After his speech, the North Korean envoy immediately got up and walked out of the Council chamber.

The resolution was adopted after sponsors agreed to a Chinese demand to drop all references to Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter, which makes a Council resolution enforceable by military action. But even without the Chapter Seven reference, the American U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, told the Council he was satisfied that the measure has the force of law. "But let's be clear. The resolution demands, demands that North Korea suspend all activity relating to its ballistic missile program. It requires all member states not to supply North Korea's missile- or any other weapons of mass destruction-programs, and it requires that all member states refrain from purchasing anything relating to North Korea's missile- or weapons of mass destruction-programs," he said.

China and Russia, two veto-wielding Council members that strongly opposed earlier drafts of the resolution, both welcomed adoption of the amended measure. Ambassador Wang Guangya of China, North Korea's closest ally, expressed hope that the Council's unanimous action would encourage all parties to act calmly, and continue diplomatic efforts for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.