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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

North Korea Reported to the UN

VIENNA, Austria --Raising the stakes in the nuclear standoff with North Korea, the UN nuclear agency Wednesday reported the reclusive communist country to the Security Council for violating its international obligations.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors made the decision -- its last resort after months of intransigence by Pyongyang -- in an emergency closed-door session at the agency's headquarters in Vienna.

Russia and Cuba abstained from the vote, which sets the stage for sanctions.

"We consider the sending of this question to the UN Security Council to be a premature and counterproductive step," the Russian representative's statement said.

North Korea has not met its obligations under international accords, and the UN agency said it "remains unable to verify that there has been no diversion of nuclear material" for weapons use.

The IAEA urged the North to comply, adding it "in parallel stresses its desire for a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue and its support for diplomatic means to that end."

South Korea's representative called the action "a direct and inevitable consequence" of the North's withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

"North Korea's actions seriously endanger the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the whole East Asian region. It also threatens to undermine the international nonproliferation regime," the South said. But it added that reporting the North "does not mean the end of diplomatic efforts."

Russia spoke out strongly Wednesday against sending the dispute to the Security Council.

"In the current crisis situation on the Korean Peninsula, it would be counterproductive and capable only of provoking a negative reaction from Pyongyang," Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov said Wednesday.

But the IAEA's director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, who gave the board a report last month saying North Korea is not keeping its promises, had been clear that the IAEA had little choice.

The crisis began in October, when U.S. officials said North Korea had admitted having a nuclear weapons program in violation of a 1994 agreement.

The U.S. and its allies suspended oil shipments to North Korea, which in turn expelled IAEA inspectors, withdrew from a nuclear arms-control treaty and said it would reactivate a nuclear plant.

The nuclear agency's board had been expected to refer the dispute to the Security Council at its last meeting on Jan. 6. Instead, hoping to give diplomacy a chance, the agency urged the North reverse its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Wednesday's meeting originally was set for last week but was postponed at the urging of South Korea, which has launched diplomacy to ease tensions.

Formally reporting North Korea to the Security Council is a grave diplomatic step opening the way for economic sanctions. But it was unclear whether the council would support such action, which Pyongyang has made clear it would regard as an act of war.

The United States has not said it would seek sanctions, and continues to press for a diplomatic solution. Russia and China, two permanent Security Council members with veto power, are seen as unlikely to back sanctions.

Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence officials said Wednesday that North Korea has an untested ballistic missile capable of reaching the western United States. The North Korean missile is a three-stage version of the Taepo Dong 2, said U.S. Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

It has not been flight-tested, Jacoby said, leaving some questions about the North Korea's capability to successfully launch the missile.