North Korea defiant as UN security council condemns rocket launch

29 01 2013

Image(by Tania Branigan in Beijing, The Guardian, 23 January 2013)

North Korea has vowed to strengthen its nuclear deterrent and other military capabilities after the United Nations security council condemned its latest rocket launch.

Analysts warned that the prospects of a third nuclear test by the regime had increased after its harsh response to the resolution, which extended sanctions against the North and expressed the council’s determination to take “significant action” against further missile or nuclear tests.

North Korea says it sent a satellite into orbit in December for peaceful and scientific purposes. But the council said it breached the ban on nuclear and missile activity, because the launch technology is near-identical to that required for long-range missiles.

China, which has veto rights as a permanent member of the council, agreed to Tuesday night’s resolution after sections were removed from an earlier draft. It has often blocked proposals for strengthened measures against its ally and neighbour in the past.

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said the resolution “demonstrates to North Korea that there are unanimous and significant consequences for its flagrant violation of its obligations under previous resolutions”.

The security council reiterated its demand that the North cease further launches and end its nuclear weapons programme in a “complete, verifiable and irreversible manner”.

The angry response from Pyongyang’s foreign ministry said the North “should counter the US hostile policy with strength, not with words” and warned it would “bolster the military capabilities for self-defence including the nuclear deterrence”.

“There can be talks for peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and the region in the future, but no talks for the denuclearisation of the peninsula,” it added.

The statement “considerably and strongly hints at the possibility of a nuclear test”, the analyst Hong Hyun-ik, of the private Sejong Institute thinktank near Seoul, told Associated Press.

The North tested nuclear devices shortly after rocket launches in 2006 and 2009, and last month the 38 North blog said analysis of satellite photos showed continued activity at a nuclear test site.

But Yang Moo-jin, of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told Reuters: “North Korea will likely take a sequenced strategy where the first stage response would be more militarily aggressive actions like another missile launch.”

Leonid Petrov, an expert on North Korea at the University of Sydney, said the resolution was “not helpful”.

He said: “It is just a sign of frustration. Diplomacy doesn’t work, military threats simply turn it into a worse situation, and nobody is prepared to give way in this standoff.”

He added: “Sticks without carrots do not work. A combination of sanctions with the prospect of engagement would be much more conducive to resolving the situation.

“North Korea does not want to abandon its nuclear programme. They have to develop it further, which means more tests … It looks like after the resolution, the nuclear test is now looming sooner rather than being postponed.”

He said there were hopes that Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s incoming president, would bring a “more pragmatic, less ideological and more stable” policy towards the North than that adopted by her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, who ended Seoul’s “sunshine policy” of engagement and aid.

But Daniel Pinkston, the north-east Asia deputy project director for the International Crisis Group, warned that if a nuclear test went ahead, “any ideas or initiatives that she is thinking about or planning will pretty quickly become impossible”.

He added: “As far as sanctions achieving the intended outcome, I don’t see that happening. The people named are national heroes from the North Korean perspective.”

While Rice said the resolution introduced new sanctions, others argued it had only extended previous measures, so that more government bodies and individuals – such as the space agency and the man who runs it – will have their assets frozen and face a global travel ban.

Li Baodong, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, described the resolution as “generally balanced”, the state news agency Xinhua reported. He noted that measures which China believed would jeopardise normal trade had been removed.

He added: “Sanctions and resolutions alone do not work. Resolutions must be completed and supplemented by diplomatic efforts.”

The six-party aid for disarmament talks stalled in 2009 and a deal with the US – which would have placed a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests in exchange for food – collapsed after the North carried out an unsuccessful rocket launch in April last year.





N.Korea Tensions Overshadow Asian Security Forum

18 07 2010

By Ian Timberlake Ian Timberlake (AFP, Jul 15, 2010)

HANOI (AFP) – Tensions over the sinking of a South Korean warship will overshadow the Asia-Pacific’s largest security forum when it convenes in Vietnam next week, diplomats and observers said. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will join her counterparts from 27 countries and blocs including China, Russia and the European Union for the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) on Friday.

South Korea has said it wants the forum to condemn North Korea for a torpedo attack which broke the corvette in two in March with the loss of 46 lives. Pyongyang vehemently denies the allegations and says it is ready to retaliate. […] Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates will pay their respects to the dead South Korean sailors during a visit to Seoul’s war memorial on Wednesday, two days before the Hanoi meeting.

The allies also plan a naval exercise as a show of strength. They are still deciding where to hold the drill, originally planned for the Yellow Sea, following protests from China. Vietnam said North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-Chun was expected to attend the ARF talks, which also include US allies Australia and Japan. Permanent Security Council members China and Russia ensured the UN’s July 9 statement was “very soft and indirect,” contrary to what Washington and Seoul had urged, University of Sydney Korean studies lecturer Leonid Petrov said.

China and Russia have not publicly accused the North of sinking the warship, despite an investigation by the United States, South Korea and other countries which found strong evidence of a North Korean torpedo attack. Diplomats and analysts said that while the ARF is likely to comment on the sinking of the Cheonan — possibly by referring to the UN statement or using similar language — it was unlikely to blame Pyongyang.

Communist Vietnam, which will chair the meeting, has major business links with South Korea but sees the North as an ideological ally. “Hanoi will try not to antagonise Pyongyang unnecessarily but also should not shy away from some comment,” said Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS research institute in Hawaii.

International Crisis Group analyst Daniel Pinkston said he expected the foreign ministers gathered at the forum to find a way to play down the issue, “considering the format and decision-making process at the ARF”. The UN statement gives the forum “a plausible reason for avoiding it”, he said…

…In the wake of the UN’s statement, nuclear-armed North Korea said it was willing in principle to return to multilateral disarmament talks which it abandoned last year. North Korea can be expected to make more efforts at the ARF to “mend bridges” with Washington and perhaps Seoul, while believing it can “continue extorting concessions and aid,” Petrov said. “But it’s not going to lead anywhere unless North Korea undertakes a major reform. Pyongyang doesn’t understand this,” he said.

See the full text of the article here…





Two Koreas Hold Opposite Views of UNSC Statement

13 07 2010

The Dong-A Ilbo (July 12, 2010)

The two Koreas have conflicting interpretations of a U.N. Security Council presidential statement condemning North Korea’s attack on the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry said Saturday, “We take note of the statement saying pending issues on the Korean Peninsula are encouraged to be peacefully addressed through direct dialogue and negotiations via appropriate channels.” “We will make consistent efforts to reach a peace agreement and achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through the six-party talks.”

[…] Experts say Pyongyang’s comments convey the North’s desire to close the matter as soon as possible and seek a peace agreement through the six-party talks.

On this, a high-ranking government official in Seoul said, “Only when the North either apologizes for the Cheonan incident or admits fault and shows a commitment to denuclearization will the six-party talks be resumed.” “We must at least address what must be addressed. In resuming the six-party talks, sincerity and trust are the most important.”

The difference of positions between the two Koreas originates from contrasting interpretations of Article 10 of the presidential statement. The article says the Security Council encourages resolution of pending issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula to facilitate early resumption of direct dialogue and negotiations.

Seoul interprets this as the resolution of pending issues (the Cheonan incident) should be preceded before dialogue and negotiations, but Pyongyang claims that the pending issues should be dealt with through dialogue and negotiations.