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UN Condemns North Korea Rocket Launch

The United Nations Security Council has condemned North Korea's April 5th rocket launch and demanded that Pyongyang not conduct further tests, saying that it would expand sanctions against North Korea.

The Security Council's response was made official on Monday afternoon in the form of a presidential statement, which is a step below a resolution.

The breakthrough came on Saturday, after a week of difficult negotiations on the format and language among the council's permanent five members and Japan.

Council president for the month of April, Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller welcomed the compromise. "It is not a resolution; it is a declaration. But it is more than a declaration. You can see that it displays a clear condemnation of the launching that took place on April 9 and at same time reminding North Korea, the DPRK, to fulfill its duties under [Security Council] resolution 1718 and at the same time it calls for no more launching by North Korea," he said.

The council statement says the April 5 launch was in "contravention" of North Korea's obligations under Security Council resolution 1718. That resolution prohibits North Korea from conducting "any further nuclear test or launch of a ballistic missile".

Monday's statement goes further, saying there will be additional strengthening of measures in resolution 1718 and activates the dormant sanctions committee set up under that resolution.

"It is not extending the number of sanctions. It is not doing that. What it is doing is broadening the base of sanctions under the existing resolution. That is what we have agreed to do in principle and we have agreed to do it in a tight timeline by end of this month. So we are tightening the sanction screw a notch against North Korea," said British Ambassador, John Sawers.

The statement calls for the designation of entities that would be subject to asset freezes and the prohibition of the transfer of some goods into or out of North Korea.

Turkish Ambassador Baki Ilkin, chairman of the sanction committee, said no countries have officially submitted their list yet. But several ambassadors said they are putting them together.

The Security Council's presidential statement is a level below a resolution -- which has the power of force to back it up. But several ambassadors, including U.S. envoy Susan Rice, said the statement is legally binding, nonetheless. "The United States views presidential statements, broadly speaking, as binding. In this instance, it is more than binding in that it adds to an existing Chapter 7 sanctions regime. So in our view, there is no doubt that the measures that will be imposed as a consequence of this presidential statement by the 24th or 30th of April will occur and will be binding," he said.

North Korea's two strongest allies on the Security Council, China and Russia, blocked the possibility of a resolution, but supported the presidential statement. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin praised his Chinese and American counterparts, saying they deserved most of the credit for working out the compromise.

Pyongyang's rocket flew directly over Japan, inciting anxiety and outrage. Tokyo had pushed for a resolution, even flying in a high-ranking official to help with the New York negotiations. Ultimately, Japan said it was satisfied with the council's response, adding that the language was strong and unprecedented.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement on Monday welcoming the council's response, saying it sends a "unified message of the international community" on the rocket launch and he said he hoped it would pave the way for renewed efforts toward the peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues in the region.

North Korea launched the rocket last Sunday, despite international diplomatic efforts to persuade it not to. Pyongyang said it was within its legal rights to launch what it said was a communications satellite. Several countries, including the United States, believe the launch was a cover for a long-range ballistic missile test.