United Nations orders missile program halt

UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Saturday on a resolution demanding North Korea cease its ballistic missile program and requiring states to help prevent Pyongyang’s import or export of ballistic missiles. The 15-0 vote ended an 11-day diplomatic deadlock that pitted the United States, Japan and Europe against Russia and China.

The vote represented the strongest international rebuke of North Korea since 1993, when the council adopted a resolution urging North Korea to reverse a decision to withdraw from the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The accord came after President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who are attending the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg, yielded to Chinese and Russian pressure to drop an explicit reference to a provision in the U.N. Charter that has traditionally been cited to impose sanctions and authorize military force. It also followed a failed high-level Chinese diplomatic initiative to persuade Pyongyang to halt its program.

The Bush administration hailed the council’s decision to condemn Pyongyang’s July 4 launch of seven missiles, including the unsuccessful launch of the long-range Taepodong 2 missile, which has the capacity to reach Alaska or Hawaii.

U.S., Japanese and European officials asserted the unanimous vote sends an unambiguous message to North Korea that it must stop developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles or face more isolation and punishment.

Council diplomats said it would also strengthen the United States and its allies in interdicting missile shipments in international waters. In 2002, the White House was compelled to order the release of a seized vessel in the Arabian Sea that was transporting 15 Scud missiles from North Korea to Yemen because there was “no provision under international law prohibiting (it).”

John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, warned after the vote that the United States would press for stronger Security Council action if Pyongyang failed to abide by the council’s demands.

“We look forward to North Korea’s full, unconditional and immediate compliance with this Security Council Resolution,” he said. “We hope that North Korea makes the strategic decision that the pursuit of WMD programs and threatening acts like these missile launches, make it less, not more secure. We need to be prepared, though, that North Korea might choose a different path.”

It remained unclear whether Saturday’s vote would bring an end to future missile tests by North Korea, which has previously ignored Security Council demands to stop its nuclear weapons program and submit to U.N. inspections.

Resolution 1695 demanded North Korea suspend ballistic missile activities and abide by a 1999 moratorium on missile tests. It also urged the government to return to six-nation talks aimed at eliminating Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons. And it expressed “grave concern” at the North Korean missile launches, given that they “could be used as a means to deliver nuclear, chemical or biological payloads.”

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