U.N. Security Council Considering Action on North Korea

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations - Less than a day after North Korea conducted a series of missile tests, the Security Council met to begin framing a strong response to Pyongyang's action, according to diplomats who attended the July 5 early morning closed-door session.

Japan asked for an immediate meeting of the council July 4, soon after North Korea, ignoring international warnings, test-fired a series of missiles - including one long-range missile thought capable of reaching the United States. (See related article.)

Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima said the series of missile launches is "far more serious" than an instance in 1998, when North Korea fired an earlier version of its Taepodong missile over northern Japan.   Thus, he said, Japan brought the issue to the council "for a quick, strong action."

"We would like the council to adopt a resolution and proposed discussions to start immediately," Oshima said.

"Whatever the [council's] response, it has to be a clear and strong condemnation of the missile launches and it should also mention the very deep concerns of the international community over the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," he added.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the tenor of the discussion in the council's private meeting showed "how little support there is in the international community as a whole for these North Korean missile launches. … No member defended what the North Koreans have done."

Evaluating the initial discussion, Bolton said he saw support for "sending a clear signal to Pyongyang."

The council has scheduled an additional afternoon meeting July 5 at the so-called "expert level" to begin reviewing a resolution drafted by Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

The U.S. ambassador said it is too early in the negotiations to determine whether it will be possible for the council to agree on imposing economic sanctions.

French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, whose country holds the Security Council presidency for the month of July, said 13 council members already had indicated their preference for a resolution.  China and Russia suggested that a presidential statement might be more appropriate.

Regardless, de La Sabliere said, "there is agreement to act swiftly and firmly."

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Russia shares the serious concern of other Security Council members.  He said he will work with them "in making it clear to North Korea that this is not the way to go about it, this has been a deplorable development, and we should work toward a diplomatic solution."

China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are permanent members of the council with veto power.  The 10 nonpermanent members currently on the council are:  Argentina, Congo, Denmark, China, Greece, Japan, Peru, Qatar, Slovak Republic and Tanzania.

After North Korea's 1998 missile launch, the Security Council issued a statement two weeks later expressing regret.  However, diplomats are now quick to point out that in the intervening years Pyongyang announced its intention to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, declared its intent to possess nuclear weapons and proceeded with long-range missile development.

Council action is not expected for a few days.

For further information, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula