The five permanent UN Security Council members and Japan have reached an agreement on a draft statement condemning North Korea's recent rocket launch, diplomats said on Saturday.
The Security Council could impose fresh sanctions on North Korea
“The Security Council condemns the 5 April 2009 launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which is in contravention of Security Council resolution 1718,” the UN draft statement reads.
Pyongyang has insisted that the rocket it launched on April 5 was a communications satellite which entered the orbit to beam back patriotic songs, but the United States, South Korea and Japan said the launch was actually a failed test of a long-range Taepodong-2 missile.
After five permanent council members - China, United States, France, Britain and Russia - and Japan met for informal talks on Saturday, April 11, French ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert told reporters the countries had agreed on draft text to be presented to partners in the Security Council.
"We made progress this morning," Ripert said. "It is a text which sends out, as we intended, a clear message to North Korea, expressing our disagreement with what happened," he said.
"We will meet this afternoon with the other members of the Council, and we hope to be able to reach an agreement soon."
The 15-member council had already met on April 6 to discuss the launch, but diplomats failed at the time to agree on a joint resolution. The draft statement will be put before the full 15 member Security Council on Monday. It needs unanimous approval to be adopted, but diplomats described this process as “virtually assured”.
Violation of UN resolution
Pyongyang says it only launched a satellite, the West suspects a missile test
Japan has vowed to continue pressing the Security Council to adopt a resolution stating that North Korea's launch violated previous UN resolutions.
"We will continue maximum efforts to (secure) a resolution," Japan's foreign affairs state secretary Shintaro Ito told reporters.
China and Russia have been urging restraint, saying that an overreaction could harm prospects for resuming stalled six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear disarmament.
After North Korea carried out a nuclear test in 2006, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1718, forbidding North Korea from conducting long-range missile tests. The resolution also included sanctions on military goods and luxury products.
Like Japan, the United States had been pushing for tougher steps against Pyongyang. US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice accepted the proposal, saying it was a strong and legally binding motion of the Security Council which would fulfil all of Washington’s goals.
“What the Council can do, and we hope will do, through the adoption of this statement is to send a very clear message to North Korea that what they have done under the guise of a satellite launch is in fact a violation of their obligations and indeed that there are consequences for such actions,” Rice told reporters.
Tougher sanctions in store?
The draft also calls for the UN Sanctions Committee to begin enforcing financial sanctions and an arms embargo laid down in the existing council resolution 1718.
The sanctions committee on North Korea has not met for two years, and has not designated a single North Korean company to be added to the UN blacklist of banned entities, diplomats say.
The draft calls for the committee to designate “entities and goods” to face sanctions. It adds that if the committee fails to do so by the end of the month, the Security Council will draw up its own list.