United States Seeks Security Council Action on North Korea

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations - In response to reports that North Korea has conducted a nuclear test, the Security Council met in emergency session October 9 and began drafting a resolution imposing sanctions on the Pyongyang government.

Early on the morning of October 9, the United States and South Korea detected a "seismic event" at a suspected nuclear test site in North Korea, according to the White House. Later that morning, President Bush sharply condemned North Korea's claim that it conducted an underground nuclear test as a threat to international peace and security in a brief televised address. (See related article.)  

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told journalists outside the U.N. Security Council's chambers that the United States is seeking a resolution under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, but did not discuss what specific actions the United States is seeking. Chapter 7 allows for mandatory, enforceable economic, trade and diplomatic sanctions.

"I was very impressed by the unanimity of the council on the need for a strong and swift answer to what everyone agreed amounted to a threat to international peace and security," Bolton said after the 30-minute meeting. "I was strongly encouraged by the mood of the council, by the swiftness with which we went through this issue, and the strengthen of the feeling expressed.

"We're off to an important start here so that the message to North Korea and - more important than the message - the strong steps we feel the council should take can be swiftly adopted," he said.

Security Council President Kenzo Oshima of Japan said that council members "strongly condemned" North Korea's actions and urged the government of North Korea to abandon its nuclear program and refrain from further testing.

"It is the desire of the Security Council to find appropriate measures to respond to the DPRK - which poses a threat to the security in the region and beyond - with a strong, swift, and very, very clear message and action," Oshima said. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is the formal name of the North Korean nation.

The council scheduled a meeting for later on October 9 at the so-called "experts level" to begin negotiating the details of the U.S. drafted resolution. The meeting will include legal and policy experts representing the 15 nations that are current members of the council.


Bolton said that the United States also has been discussing the elements of the resolution in capitals around the world, especially those of the other permanent council members with veto power - China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom - and Japan, which holds the presidency of the council for the month of October.

"We are looking for very swift action in the Security Council. We think it is important to respond even to the claim of a nuclear test," Bolton said, adding that the United States delegation will be working around the clock if need be "to get this resolution adopted quickly. "

The U.S. ambassador said that the meeting was "quite remarkable" for its brevity and intensity.

"That is remarkable in the Security Council to have a unanimous condemnation of the North Korea test. No one defended it. No one even came close to defending it," he said.

On October 6 the Security Council warned North Korea that conducting a nuclear test would bring "universal condemnation" and not help the DPRK with its security concerns. At that time, the council said that it would be "monitoring this situation closely" and if a nuclear test is carried out, it "will act consistent with its responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations." (See related article.)

In July the council adopted Resolution 1695 after the North Koreans launched a series of ballistic missiles imposed limited sanctions relating to missile production. (See related article.)

The United States requested the Security Council meeting immediately after voting on the nomination of South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon as the eighth U.N. secretary-general.

Bolton noted that "it is quite an appropriate juxtaposition that today 61 years after the temporary division of the Korean Peninsula at the end of World War II that we are electing the foreign minister of South Korea as secretary-general of this organization and meeting as well to consider the testing by the North Koreans of a nuclear device.

"I can't think of a better way to show the difference in the progress of the two countries," the ambassador said. "There is great progress in the South and great tragedy in the North."

For additional information, see The U.S. and the Korean Peninsula and Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.