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Controversy at UN Over North Korea's Launch
Reconvening six-party talks or penalizing Pyongyang?
Ronda Hauben (netizen2)     Print Article 
Published 2009-04-10 14:36 (KST)   
There has been a controversy among the members of the UN Security Council over how to react to the April 5 launch of a satellite by North Korea. The Security Council met for emergency consultations on Sunday, April 5, while the P-5 and Japan have met in other consultations after the Sunday meeting.

Japan and the US have encouraged the UNSC to take strong measures against North Korea to punish it for launching the satellite. The Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly I. Churkin warned against a "knee jerk" reaction and proposed that the crucial goal was to ensure the continuation of the six-party talks toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. These talks broke down during the Bush administration and have not yet been resumed.

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The Chinese Ambassador to the UN, Zhang Yesui said that the reaction of the Security Council had to be "cautious and proportionate." He said that his delegation would be most willing to consider constructive responses.

US Ambassador Susan Rice, called the launch by North Korea, "a clear cut violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718."

She said that it is the view of the US government "that this action merits a clear and strong response from the United Nations Security Council."

Her position was that SC Resolution 1718 "prohibited missile related activity and called on the DPRK to halt further missile related activity."

Vietnam, one of the elected members of the Security Council, called for a "prudent reaction." A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said that Vietnam "hopes the relevant parties have a prudent reaction, find a reasonable solution and do not complicate the situation and affect peace and stability in the Northeast Asia region."(1)

While Vietnam said that it was opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, an earlier statement indicated that Vietnam supports "the rights of countries to use science and technology for peaceful purposes."

The Japanese Ambassador to the UN, Yukio Takasu requested an emergency consultative session of the Security Council on Sunday, April 5. His position was that North Korea's launch of a satellite was banned by SC Resolution 1718 which demands that North Korea suspend all activities "related to its ballistic missile program."

While SC Resolution 1718 explicitly demands that North Korea not conduct any "launch of a ballistic missile," the members of the Security Council disagree about whether SC Resolution 1718 forbids the launch of a communication satellite.

Countries advocating the position that North Korea violated SC Resolution 1718, point to parts 5 and 8(a)ii of the resolution as the parts violated.

Part 5 reads that the Security Council:

"Decides that the DPRK shall suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile programme and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launch.
(SC Resolution 1718, p.2)

Section 8(a)ii is about member states preventing the sale or transfer to North Korea of "materials, equipment, goods and technology as set out in the lists...which could contribute to DPRK's nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related or other weapons of mass-destruction related programmes."
(SC Resolution 1718, p. 2-3)

North Korea was not invited to participate in the emergency consultations of the Security Council, despite the fact that Article 32 of the UN charter requires that a "party to a dispute under consideration by the Security Council shall be invited to participate, without vote, in the discussion relating to the dispute..."

Speaking to reporters at the UN on Tuesday, April 7, the Deputy Ambassador to the UN from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), Pak Tok Hun said (2):

"Every country has the right, the inalienable right to use the outer space peacefully. Not a few countries, many countries, they have already launched satellites several hundred times.

Does it mean it would be OK for them to launch satellite but we are not allowed to do that? It's not fair. It's not fair.

This is a satellite. Everyone can distinguish (a) satellite with a missile. It's not a missile. I know most of the countries now recognize it's not a missile."

A reporter asked, "But you use ballistic technology. You need ballistic technologies."

Pak responded:

"Those countries who launch satellites use similar technology and if the Security Council, they take any kind of steps whatever, this is infringement on the sovereignty of our country and the next option will be ours and necessary and strong steps will follow that."

Along with the dispute in the Security Council over whether or not the North Korea's action is an actual violation of SC Resolution 1718, there is a controversy over whether the thrust of the Security Council action should be toward getting the six-party talks reconvened, or toward penalizing North Korea in some way.

The resolution of this controversy depends predominantly upon the US because it can be argued that the US was responsible for the current breakdown of the six-party talks.

In a talk at the Korea Society in NYC last Fall, Leon Sigal of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) explained how the six-party talks broke down over the issue of verification. The US government had changed the terms of the agreement unilaterally, imposing a condition on North Korea that was not part of the original agreement. (3)

The second phase of the six-party February 2007 agreement required disabling the reactor, and other processes at Yongbyon and declaring the nuclear material and equipment which were to be eliminated in Phase 3 of the agreed actions.

The Bush administration was obligated to provide 'action for action' in response to North Korea's disabling the reactor and other steps.

The verification was to occur only later in the six-party talk process, in Phase 3 "when the dismantling of the North's nuclear facilities and elimination of any plutonium or weapons it has would be taken up." Instead the US continued to press for a verification agreement during Phase 2 of the agreement.

Most of the mainstream US media, with the exception of an important article in the Washington Post, failed to explain the reason for the breakdown in the talks. (4) The Washington Post article which documented how the hostile US State Department environment eroded the process of negotiation between the US government and North Korea, was only carried on page 20 of the newspaper. It described how US government hardliners fashioned a verification procedure to be imposed on North Korea which was in the words of an expert in nuclear disarmament akin to "a license to spy on any military site they (North Korea) have."

By launching a satellite rather than a ballistic missile, North Korea has avoided violation of the ballistic missile sections of SC Resolution 1718. This gives the US a chance to respond by returning to the six-party-talks and seeking to finish Phase 2 before requiring verification in Phase 3 of the process.

The Security Council has this opportunity to call for all parties to cease any obstruction and to return to the six-party talks and to intensify their efforts to complete Phase 2 and enter the next phase of the agreed path to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.


1.Vietnam calls for 'prudent' reaction to DPRK rocket, April 5, 2009.

2. Pak Tok Hun, Deputy Ambassador from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) to the UN, speaking to reporters at the UN on Tuesday, April 7, 2009.

3. Ronda Hauben,US Media and the Breakdown in the Six-Party Talks, OhmyNews International, Sept. 29, 2008.

4. Glenn Kessler, "Far reaching US Plan Impaired N. Korea Deal: Demands Began to Undo Nuclear Accord", Washington Post, Friday, Sept. 26, 2008; Page A20

©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ronda Hauben

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