UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution condemning North Korea's rocket launch in December and imposing new sanctions on Pyongyang's space agency.
The multi-stage rocket launch is considered part of a covert program to develop ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.
The council reiterated its previous demand that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program in a "complete, verifiable and irreversible manner" and cease launches.
China joined in approving the resolution, the first resolution in four years to expand the sanctions regime on North Korea.
"We believe that action taken by the Council should be prudent, measured, proportionate, and conducive to stability," Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong said after the vote.
China's agreement to join a resolution is a step away from the protection it usually gives to North Korea, its neighbor, which it supported in the Korean War in the early 1950s against U.S.-led U.N. troops.
China is seen as North Korea's closest ally, and its protection of North Korea meant that the Security Council previously denounced North Korea's launches with non-binding council statements, which are unenforceable.
In a defiant statement early Wednesday, North Korea's Foreign Ministry warned that it will strengthen its military and nuclear defenses in reaction to what it called evidence of "U.S. hostility" toward Pyongyang. It also warned that it would rebuff any attempt to engage Pyongyang in disarmament negotiations.
"There can be talks for peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the region in the future, but no talks for the denuclearization of the peninsula," the Foreign Ministry said in a memorandum carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
North Korea ominously warned that it would take steps to "bolster the military capabilities for self-defense, including the nuclear deterrence."
North Korea sent a satellite into space on Dec. 12 aboard a long-range rocket, a launch that the U.S. and its allies have criticized as a test of banned ballistic missile technology. Pyongyang maintains the launch was a peaceful bid to send a satellite into space and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un cited its success in his New Year's Day speech.
In 2006 and 2009, Pyongyang conducted atomic tests after being slapped with Security Council condemnation and sanctions for similar launches of long-range rockets.
Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from any use of ballistic missile technology, even if characterized as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle. Continued...