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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UN Slaps Sanctions on North Korea

APNorth Korea's ambassador to the UN, Pak Gil Yon, waiting for the UN Security Council to convene for a vote on sanctions Saturday at the United Nations.
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Saturday to impose sanctions on North Korea, calling Pyongyang's claimed nuclear test "a clear threat to international peace and security."

North Korea walked out after the vote, rejecting the resolution and accusing the council of "gangster-like" action.

The United States-sponsored resolution rules out military action against North Korea in response to its announcement of the test on Oct. 9, but calls on all countries to inspect cargo leaving and arriving in the country to prevent any illegal trafficking in weapons of mass destruction or ballistic missiles.

The measure also bans the import or export of material and equipment used to make nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles. It orders all countries to freeze the assets and ban travel for anyone engaged in supporting the weapons programs.

U.S. President George W. Bush said Saturday that the Security Council had sent a strong message to North Korea that its claimed detonation of a nuclear bomb was unacceptable to the world.

"This action by the United Nations, which was swift and tough, says that we are united in our determination to see to it that the Korean Peninsula is nuclear-weapons free," Bush said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev arrived in South Korea on Sunday for meetings on the nuclear standoff amid intense diplomacy aimed at averting a greater crisis. He was fresh from negotiations in China and North Korea.

"I was repeatedly told in Pyongyang that they are for the continuation of the process. They are for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Alexeyev said after meeting with Seoul's top nuclear negotiator, Chun Yung-woo.

On Saturday, Alexeyev praised the UN resolution. "In my opinion, the resolution properly reflects the international community's reaction to what has happened," Alexeyev said in Beijing. "Russia's main goal in the New York debates was to ensure that reaction to this untoward event be adequate."

A global crackdown on North Korea's nuclear weapons program began Sunday, with countries divided over how to enforce UN sanctions in a foreboding sign that imposing the punitive measures might not be easy.

Japan and Australia, staunch North Korea critics, prepared harsher penalties against the communist regime; South Korea was mum on details of its plans; and China, a major source of leverage over Pyongyang, refused to partake in certain measures.

Japan indicated Sunday that it was not only moving to enact the UN sanctions, but was also considering stricter measures of its own. "We are already considering them, and we want to make a final decision," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso added that Japan could support U.S. forces inspecting cargo into and out of the North, Kyodo News agency reported, the most recent sign of Abe's pledge to give his country a more assertive role on the world stage.

Australia welcomed the sanctions as "surprisingly tough," and is likewise considering even stronger measures of its own, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said.

Australia, along with Japan a key U.S. ally in the Asia-Pacific region, has strongly backed a stiff international response to the North's claimed nuclear test last Monday, which Canberra said threatened regional stability.

But China said it would not conduct any inspections, and its UN envoy called for caution.

"China strongly urges the countries concerned to adopt a prudent and responsible attitude in this regard and refrain from taking any provocative steps that may intensify the tensions," China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya said.

On Sunday, things appeared quiet along the Chinese-North Korean border, and no inspections were apparent.

South Korea, which has taken a conciliatory approach to the North, including supplying massive amounts of aid, said it would honor the UN resolution but did not elaborate on its plans for inspections. South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, also issued a statement pledging to take "necessary steps" to implement the UN resolution.

The next UN secretary-general, currently the foreign minister of South Korea, welcomed the resolution. Ban Ki-moon said the resolution sent a "very clear, strong and unified message" that Pyongyang's claimed nuclear test was unacceptable.