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UN Security Council Condemns North Korea Nuclear Test

Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin addresses the council.
UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations Security Council has unanimously condemned North Korea's nuclear test as a clear violation of Security Council resolutions, and said it would begin work immediately on a new, legally binding resolution addressing the violations.

The statement was issued after the Security Council held an emergency meeting at Japan's request in response to the test early on May 25. The nuclear test was North Korea's second, following one in 2006.

The Security Council is demanding that North Korea abide by two previous UN resolutions that ban it from conducting nuclear tests, and urge the communist-led state to return to six-country talks aimed at eliminating its nuclear program.

It took the 15 members of the UN's highest executive body less than one hour to produce its statement. Previous emergency sessions on North Korean nuclear or missile activities have rarely resulted in such a swift and resolute response. Even China, one of the Security Council's permanent members and North Korea's closest ally, appears less and less willing to tolerate its neighbor's unpredictable, defiant behavior.

Speaking in his capacity as the Security Council's president for the month of May, Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the nuclear test was far more troubling than North Korea's ballistic missile launch on April 5 because it violated not only Security Council resolutions, but also the two major nuclear arms reduction treaties.

"This is a very rare occurrence, as you know, and it goes contrary not only to the resolutions of the Security Council but also the [Nuclear] Non-Proliferation Treaty and the [Nuclear] Test Ban Treaty,” Churkin said. “Russia is one of the founding members of those documents, so we think they are extremely important in current international relations. So anything that will undermine the regime of those two treaties is very serious and needs to have a strong response."

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, called the North Korean test a "grave violation of international law," and said the United States will seek a "strong resolution" with strong measures to punish the North. She said it is very likely the Security Council will start negotiations on the draft of the resolution as early as May 26.

"We believe it ought to be a strong resolution, with appropriately strong content, but obviously unless and until we have completed the process of negotiating that resolution, it's premature to suggest what its contents would be," Rice said.

While Rice declined to specify whether the United States will seek additional economic and other sanctions against North Korea, the French deputy ambassador, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, said Paris will certainly seek new sanctions.

"The French national position is that this resolution should include new sanctions in addition to those already adopted by the Security Council, because this behavior must have a cost and a price to pay," Lacroix said.

Japanese Ambassador to the UN Yukio Takasu said Pyongyang's nuclear test not only was a serious threat to regional and international security, but also undermined the authority of the Security Council.

The Chinese ambassador, Zhang Yesui, did not speak to reporters after the Security Council's emergency meeting was adjourned. But the Chinese government issued a statement earlier on May 25 saying it "resolutely opposes" the North Korean test.