ROK, US to get tough with NK
Seoul and Washington urged North Korea Tuesday to heed the call of the international community and refrain from further provocations, amid stepped-up diplomacy over the North’s failed rocket launch.
Tensions have been taut following the launch last week, which resulted in a strongly-worded U.N. Security Council (UNSC) presidential statement adopted Monday that deplored the act.
The joint stance emerged from talks between Seoul’s nuclear envoy Lim Sung-nam and Glyn Davies, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy in Washington.
"The two nations welcomed the UNSC’s adoption of a meaningful presidential statement on North Korea's missile launch," Lim said following the talks.
"We agreed that North Korea should listen carefully to the voice of the international community and make the right choice.”
While the North insisted the launch, carried out Friday, was to put a satellite into orbit, the international community saw it as a ballistic missile test that breached UNSC resolutions. Concern is high that the launch could be followed by a nuclear test as the North bids to develop a long-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.
The launch also broke a North-U.S deal struck in February under which Pyongyang stood to receive 240,000 tons of nutritional assistance in exchange for steps to slow down its nuclear program including a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests. The agreement opened the door for the stalled six-party talks on the North’s denuclearization.
On Tuesday, Pyongyang’s foreign ministry fired back over the UNSC statement, calling it “unreasonable” and a violation of the North’s “legitimate right to launch satellites” in a statement carried by state media.
It blamed Washington for breaking the deal by suspending the delivery of the aid and said it would no longer be bound by the deal.
“The U.S. will be held wholly accountable for all the ensuing consequences," the statement warned.
In Seoul, Unification Minister Yoo Woo-ik said the Lee Myung-bak administration would work closely with the international community to find appropriate ways to punish Pyongyang. However, he added that it will continue to allow private groups to send aid to at-risk groups in the North.
The UNSC statement also calls for member states to increase the bite off existing sanctions.
Despite maintaining the humanitarian aid, Yoo said it was inevitable for Seoul to suspend its policy of “flexibility” towards the North in light of the developments.
“The international community and the public are calling for a shift and fundamental reflection in policy measures to end the North’s vicious cycle,” the minister said during a meeting with reporters.
While no specific plans were stated, Yoo said “the government will respond to demands for change in countering the provocations repeated for the last 20 years.”
President Lee, meanwhile, struck a positive tone over the international community’s unified response to the launch.
During a breakfast meeting with security experts, Lee said China had acted reliably on the matter and highlighted the importance of cooperating with Beijing over the North, participants said.
Beijing has shielded the North from UNSC censure in recent years.
The Security Council censured the North in 2009 following missile launches and a nuclear test that year, slapping it with Resolution 1874 which expanded economic sanctions and encouraged U.N. member states to search North Korean cargo vessels.