The United States is proposing tough international sanctions on North Korea for staging an apparent nuclear test. The proposal has strong backing among several key members of the Security Council.
Within hours of North Korea's nuclear test announcement, Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton presented the Council a list of possible sanctions. They include inspections of all goods going into or out of North Korea to check for goods that might be used for production of weapons of mass destruction, and a total arms embargo.
Bolton expressed satisfaction at the Council's initial reaction, and said he hopes the measures would be adopted under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, making them legally enforceable. "In discussion we had, it was really quite remarkable, I laid out the number of elements the United States is asking for Council members to consider in Chapter Seven resolution, and the entire discussion in which all 15 Council members participated took only 30 minutes. It is remarkable in the Security Council to have a unanimous condemnation of the test. No one defended it," he said.
Japan, which holds this month's Security Council presidency, is strongly supporting sanctions. Japan's U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima says Pyongyang's decision to defy earlier Council warnings on nuclear testing has fundamentally changed the tone of diplomacy. "Last week there was no test, nuclear test. Today we have a nuclear test. So that makes a fundamental difference," he said.
Britain and France also expressed support for sanctions. The French U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere said the penalties must be enforceable. "A Chapter 7 resolution would make sense, and sanctions are probable, and the discussion will be on sanctions. The time has come to have a Chapter 7 resolution," he said.
The other two permanent Security Council members, Russia and China, joined in a statement condemning Pyongyang's nuclear test. But both shied away from endorsing sanctions. Referring to North Korea's rejection of past Council actions, China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said the door must remain open for further diplomatic efforts. "I think we have to react firmly, but also I believe that on the other hand, the door to solve this issue from diplomatic point of view is still open," he said.
North Korea's U.N. Ambassador Pak Gil Yon remained defiant Monday. He did not attend the Security Council meeting, but in an encounter with reporters, he called the Council's actions 'ridiculous' and said he is proud of his country's accomplishment. "Testing was so successful. Today, and this will be great contribution in maintaining and guaranteeing the peace and security in the Korean peninsula and the region," he said.
The North Korean envoy said it would be better for the Security Council to congratulate Pyongyang rather than pass what he called "useless resolutions".
The nuclear test overshadowed the Security Council's nomination of South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon as the next U.N. Secretary-General. Ban was quoted Monday as saying he hopes to visit Pyongyang after he takes office January first.