More than two weeks after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test and launched several short-range missiles in violation of existing U.N. resolutions, the Security Council began considering a draft resolution that condemns Pyongyang's behavior. The proposed resolution would increase existing sanctions, while adding some new provisions aimed at curtailing the regime's nuclear activities.
The text is the result of intensive negotiations among the permanent five council members - Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States - as well as non-permanent member Japan and concerned neighbor South Korea.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who led the negotiations among the seven and presented the draft to the full council Wednesday, said the proposed resolution provides a "very strong, very credible, very appropriate" response to North Korea's recent actions.
"We think that the message that the council will send, should it adopt this resolution, is that North Korea's behavior is unacceptable, they must pay a price, they ought to return without conditions to a process of negotiations and that the consequences they will face are significant," he said.
Just hours after the May 25 nuclear test, the Security Council condemned North Korea's action, but it has taken much longer to hammer out a new proposed resolution. Ambassador Rice has said it required working through a large set of "very complex, difficult issues."
North Korea had no immediate reaction to the draft resolution, but earlier this week the North Korean news agency said if the country was provoked it would use its nuclear capability to "deal a just retaliatory strike to those who touch the country's dignity and sovereignty."
The draft U.N. resolution is now in the hands of the other nine council members, who will review the document with their capitals. Adoption is likely, because the key powers, including North Korea's allies China and Russia, support the text.
Ambassador Rice said among the most significant sanctions is a total embargo on the export of arms from North Korea. "These arms exports have been a significant source of revenue over the years for North Korea, and we think it important that that source of revenue be entirely curtailed," she said.
The new draft also calls on countries to inspect, in accordance with international law, all cargo to and from North Korea, on their land, sea or air, if there is reason to believe it contains banned items.
In the financial realm, Rice said the draft proposes a very broad set of new mechanisms to prevent the flow of funds internationally that could benefit North Korea's nuclear or ballistic missile activities. "This sanctions regime, if passed by the Security Council, will bite and bite in a meaningful way," she said.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the draft is "good, balanced and well-targeted". He said no member would like to sanction another, but it is necessary, because North Korea poses a real nuclear risk.
"We are facing a situation that clearly poses some real proliferation risks. So we are trying to address the situation accordingly. Putting very tight controls on matters which might cause proliferation risk situations, but at same time, leaving the door open -- in fact, urging the DPRK to return to Six Party Talks and to keep moving in the direction of the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," he said.
The draft will likely come to a vote before the end of this week.