|UNSC imposes sanctions
on North Korea
15 Oct, 2006
WASHINGTON: The United Nations Security Council on Saturday unanimously voted to impose punitive sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear tests.
The 15-0 Security Council vote was backed by all five permanent members and ten rotating members, with no holdouts, after hours of wrangling that whittled down extreme provisions that the United States wanted.
Under the compromise resolution, the sanctions will mostly be aimed at the North Korean leadership and its nuclear and ballistic missile programme.
It will ban travel by North Korean government officials involved in military programmes and ban trade in luxury goods and high end financial activity of the country's leaders.
But it will largely spare the North Korean people and in fact include a cut out for humanitarian relief.
All 192 member states of the UN are required to comply with the provisions of the sanctions resolution.
The resolution also states that the Security Council will lift the sanctions if North Korea complies with a variable reversal of its nuclear and ballistic missile programme and returns to the six-party talks.
Earlier, differences between the US on one hand and China and Russia on the other had delayed the vote for days, and talks went well into the weekend.
Washington meanwhile said it now has preliminary evidence, based on radiation samples, to prove North Korea did indeed conduct a nuclear test on Monday.
For almost a week after the tests, the US was unable to carry with it the two big eastern powers in its bid to impose punitive sanctions on Pyongyang, which previously had close relations with both Beijing and Moscow.
Finally, Washington was forced to considerably dilute the intensity of the sanctions it wanted to push through originally, dropping several provisions opposed by China and Russia.
The precise details of the differences are being fudged by all sides, but broadly, China and Russia did not want sanctions that would cause a collapse of North Korea, and bring about a humanitarian crisis in the region. They also did not want the US interdicting ships nears their coast. On a broader geo-strategic level, the two countries are leery of greater US presence or influence in the region and a further military build-up in South Korea and Japan.
China's envoy to the UN Wang Guangya specifically acknowledged Beijing's concern about stop and search provisions in the US draft of the sanctions resolution, saying such interceptions could lead to "provocation and conflict." China is North Korea's biggest trading partner and an economic lifeline.
President Bush meanwhile spoke about the North Korea crisis in his Saturday morning radio address and announced that he would seek to increase defence cooperation with allies Japan and South Korea, including in the missile defence area.
The declaration is bound to rouse China, which sees Japan as a re-emerging regional rival, which, strategists say, has been constrained by Beijing's skilful use of maverick North Korea, the same way it has used Pakistan to constrain India.
Anyway one looks at it, the North Korea test has suddenly upset the Asian status quo with the possibility the security architecture in the region will be drastically recast.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to visit Japan, South Korea and China next week, after meetings last week between the leaders of the three countries.
Although China has gradually disengaged from North Korea and strongly condemned the nuclear test, any sign that Washington is using Tokyo and Seoul (and New Delhi for that matter) to contain it will immediately changed Beijing's tactics.
IT is in this context that China will most closely study the operative portion of President Bush's radio address on Saturday which reads: As we pursue a diplomatic solution, we are also reassuring our allies in the region that America remains committed to their security. We have strong defence alliances with Japan and South Korea, and the United States will meet these commitments.
Bush also said that "in response to North Korea's provocation, we will seek to increase our defence cooperation with our allies, including cooperation on ballistic missile defence to protect against North Korean aggression, and cooperation to prevent North Korea from importing or exporting nuclear or missile technologies
North Korea, Nuclear Test
Nations across the world condemned the test. China, Pyongyang’s closet supporter, called it a “flagrant and brazen” violation of international opinion and said it “firmly opposes” North Korea’s conduct.
In Russia, which shares a short border with North Korea, officials reacted with dismay and condemnation. “Russia absolutely condemns North Korea’s nuclear test,” President Vladimir V Putin said in televised remarks during a meeting with his senior government ministers. Appearing with Putin, Defence Minister Sergei B Ivanov said that the Russian military had confirmed the test and estimated its force at somewhere between 5 and 15 kilotons, much larger than estimates from South Korea.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) confirmed the explosion, declaring that the test was a “historic event”. It said there was no leak or danger from its test. “The nuclear test was conducted with indigenous wisdom and technology 100 percent,” the news agency said, according to Reuters. The announcement said “It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the KPA (Korean People’s Army) and people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defence capability.”
American officials cautioned that they had not yet received any confirmation that the test had occurred. US intelligence analysts have determined that the strength of the weapon tested by North Korea was less than one kiloton, extremely small for a nuclear explosion, one official said today. “We have assessed that the explosion in North Korea was a sub-kiloton explosion,” said the intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. He added, “We don’t know, in fact, whether it was a nuclear explosion.”
The United States Geological Survey said it had detected a tremor of 4.2 magnitude on the Korean Peninsula. Senior Bush administration officials said that they had little reason to doubt the announcement, and warned that the test would usher in a new era of confrontation with the isolated and unpredictable country run by President Kim Jong-il.
What form that confrontation would take was not yet clear. Last week, the administration’s special envoy for North Korea issued a stern warning to Pyongyang not to go ahead with its threatened test, saying “We are not going to live with a nuclear North Korea.”
In South Korea, the country that fought a bloody war with the North for three years and has lived with an uneasy truce and failed efforts at reconciliation for more than half a century, officials said they believed that an explosion occurred around 10.36 pm New York time — 11.36 am Monday in Korea. They identified the source of the explosion as North Hamgyong Province, roughly the area where American spy satellites have been focused for several years on a variety of suspected underground test sites. That was less than an hour after North Korean officials had called their counterparts in China and warned them that a test was just minutes away.
RIDING THE ATOM
Yongbyon nuclear centre’s two small reactors provided plutonium for test. By 1994, CIA estimated North Korea had 2-3 nuclear weapons. That year North Korea promised US in Geneva to freeze programme
Impetus for the test was fear of being undermined by richer, more powerful South Korea, which has US as ally. Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994, was determined to equal the power of US. Son Kim Jong-il speeded political decision on test
DIPLOMACY DIDN’T WORK
Some gains after Clinton’s easing of sanctions in 1999. But chill after Bush labelled North Korea, Iran and Iraq “axis of evil”. Talks among North Korea, US, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea began in Beijing in 2003. North Korea more keen on bilateral talks with US but Washington reluctant. On Sept 26, North Korea terminated talks.
China: Friend of North Korea condemned tests as “flagrant and brazen”.
Japan: Newly installed PM, assertive Shinzo Abe, has task cut out
South Korea: Pressure to end “sunshine policy” of trade, tourism and opening to the North.
WHILE THE PEOPLE SUFFER
Korea’s GDP (2005 est) is
$40 billion, per capita $1,800. Defence spending in 2005 constituted 13%
of GDP. 23 million live mostly in poverty. Food shortages claimed millions
of lives in the 1990s.
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