U.N. Votes to Condemn N. Korean Missile Tests

The U.N. Security Council unanimously agrees to impose weapons-related sanctions on North Korea. The action comes in response to a flurry of missile tests earlier this month.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott. A week and a half after North Korea surprised the world by firing off a barrage of missiles, the U.N. Security Council has voted to condemn the actions. The vote in the council was unanimous, but came after long consultations and negotiations between the authors and Russia and China, countries that wanted a weaker resolution.

NPR's diplomatic correspondent, Michele Kelemen, joins us now to talks about this development.

First of all, Michele, what does this resolution mean?

MICHEL KELEMEN reporting:

It demands that North Korea end its missile tests, come back to talks, and it also bars countries from shipping equipment or money that could help North Korea's nuclear program, or its missile program. And so - and this has been the first real Security Council action, as U.S. Ambassador John Bolton pointed out, since 1993. So it was difficult to get there, but they seem to have gotten there.

ELLIOTT: Why was it so difficult to come up with this wording?

KELEMEN: The main sticking point was this idea of Chapter 7, which the U.S. says is part of - the part of the U.N. Charter used to make a resolution legally binding. China said it would veto a resolution under Chapter 7. Russia also opposed the idea, saying the U.N. shouldn't throw the book at every situation.

And Debbie, this is really the legacy of the Iraq War debate, because the U.S. used Chapter 7 resolutions to justify the war in Iraq. And now, countries, particularly, Russia and China, are leery of any language that could set the stage or justify any future military action. So in the end of all these - this whole week of deliberations, this compromise resolution came out. It drops a reference to Chapter 7, but Security Council members say the resolution is still mandatory.

ELLIOTT: The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, had this to say about the resolution.

Mr. JOHN BOLTON (U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.): This resolution also demands action. It sends an unequivocal, unambiguous and unanimous message to Pyongyang.

ELLIOTT: Michele, does this mean that the U.S. is satisfied with these results? Or do we expect the U.S. to be looking for further action?

KELEMEN: Well, Ambassador Bolton did express a lot of frustration this week as this diplomacy played out. He pointed out today that it's been 11 days since these missile tests. Part of that delay was to give China a last ditch attempt to send a team to Pyongyang to convince the North Koreans to stop these missile tests and come back to six party talks. And nothing really emerged from that.

And John Bolton today said the Security Council needs to be prepared for future action, to take up this issue again, and possibly come up with sanctions or some other threat to get North Korea back to these talks. But he didn't seem too optimistic about where it was going.

In fact, North Korea's ambassador made a strong appeal there today. And he said we totally reject this. And he said the missile development in North Korea serves as a balance of force in the peninsula, that we are preserving peace and security in Northeast Asia, and said that we have every right to this. So I think we can expect this to be coming back.

Bolton, by the way, after the North Korean ambassador made this appeal, he said, well, the North Koreans have set a new record. They rejected a Security Council resolution 45 minutes after it was passed. So he said he wanted to respond. But he said why bother, because the North Korean ambassador had actually left right after he made his statement.

ELLIOTT: Thanks very much. NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen.

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