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U.N. close on N. Korea text

Draft condemns missile test, revives threat of sanctions

UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council’s five permanent powers and Japan reached agreement Saturday on a statement condemning North Korea’s April 5 rocket launch over Japan. The text would revive a 2  1/2-year-old threat of financial and travel sanctions against individuals and entities linked to Pyongyang’s missile program.

The pact set the stage for a likely agreement as early as Monday by the 15-nation council on a statement that would also demand that North Korea not conduct any additional missile tests. It ended a diplomatic standoff between the United States and China, which blocked a U.S.-backed effort to rally international criticism of North Korea.

Saturday’s accord came less than a week after President Barack Obama called on the Security Council to punish North Korea for launching the rocket in violation of U.N. resolutions banning Pyongyang’s use of ballistic missile technology.

It came less than 48 hours after U.S. and Chinese diplomats brokered a compromise text that registered displeasure over North Korea’s launch while encouraging it to agree to the early resumption of six-nation talks aimed at “achieving the verifiable denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. Those talks broke down in December over a dispute between the United States and North Korea over an American plan to verify the dismantlement of Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

“We think this is very strong and sends a clear message to (North Korea) that their violation of international law will not be treated with impunity and will indeed have consequences,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters after the big powers briefed the full council on the draft. It “clearly and unequivocally condemns the launch of April 5; it makes it plain that this launch contravenes” U.N. resolutions.

Saturday’s draft calls for reactivating the U.N. sanctions committee to produce by April 24 a list of individuals and companies subject to sanctions. If the committee – which includes all 15 council members and makes decisions by consensus – cannot agree on a list, the matter will be taken up in a formal session of the Security Council on April 30. The council can pass a measure with nine votes, as long as none of the permanent five members casts a veto. The statement also urges member states to enforce sanctions against Pyongyang.


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