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UN condemns N Korea rocket launch

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Matthew Price reports on the UN's response to the launch

The UN Security Council has unanimously condemned the launch by North Korea of a long-range rocket.

In a compromise statement, the 15-member council said it would tighten sanctions against Pyongyang in the wake of the 5 April launch.

The council adopted a statement calling on North Korea to comply with a 2006 resolution banning missile tests.

Pyongyang says its rocket carried a satellite, but several nations viewed it as cover for a missile test.

"The Security Council condemns the 5 April 2009 launch by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which is in contravention of Security Council resolution 1718 of 2006," said Claude Heller, the Mexican president of the Security Council.

The statement also ordered the UN Sanctions Committee to begin enforcing both financial sanctions and an existing arms embargo against North Korea.

UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the council's move, saying it sent "a unified message".

But the BBC's Matthew Price at the UN says it remains to be seen how far member states will go to enforce the sanctions.

'Strong and positive'

Japan's ambassador to the UN described the North Korean launch as a "provocative act" and said there was "no doubt" it breached the terms of resolution 1718.

Tokyo had sought quick action from the Security Council, and pushed for an official resolution declaring North Korea in breach of the 2006 resolution - but this was opposed by China and Russia.

The US is very pleased that the council has today issued a strong, unanimous statement
Susan Rice
US ambassador to the UN

However, both Japan and the US backed the compromise agreed statement, which our correspondent says is not legally binding in the same way as a resolution.

And the Japanese envoy hailed the clear language of the unanimous resolution, saying there could be "no stronger message" than the quick and timely action of the Security Council.

Susan Rice, the US envoy to the UN, said the statement was a "strong and, we believe, positive outcome".

"The US is very pleased that the council has today issued a strong, unanimous statement," she said.

The agreement "clearly demonstrates that there can be no future such launches", Ms Rice added.

China's ambassador warned that the statement came at a "sensitive" time, and urged restraint from all sides involved.

Stalled talks

Mr Ban said the council's "unified response" could pave the way for further progress in resolving "all outstanding issues" on the Korean peninsula.

5MW(e) reactor at Yongbyon ((Satellite image from 2006)

This could include "the early resumption of the six-party talks and the inter-Korean dialogue", he said.

Those talks - involving the US, China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas - have stalled over the failure of Pyongyang to verify the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear plant.

Pyongyang agreed to dismantle the facility as part of an aid-for-disarmament deal and in response, the US removed North Korea from its terrorism blacklist.

The BBC's Paul Reynolds says it remains unclear what Pyongyang's intentions were in launching the rocket.

The country may be attempting to develop a useable nuclear weapon and the means to carry it, or it may just be seeking to hold the world's attention, making concessions which can easily be withdrawn, says our correspondent.



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