- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2009

UNITED NATIONS | The U.N. Security Council on Friday punished North Korea for its recent nuclear weapon and missile tests, sparking threats of retaliation from Pyongyang for imposing deeper sanctions and a broad mandate to search ships at sea or in port.

It is the second time a unanimous council has agreed under the legally binding Chapter 7 to censor Pyongyang for its increasingly belligerent rhetoric and pursuit of nuclear weapons. Diplomats say the sanctions, though broader than those imposed earlier this year, will not affect humanitarian assistance or development programs.

The lengthy and detailed text calls on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, to “abandon” its nuclear program and work closely with the Vienna, Austria-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) while conforming to international covenants banning weapons of mass destruction.

Diplomats say they have no intention to use force to bring Pyongyang into compliance, preferring diplomacy and politics. “This is a very tough robust sanctions regime with teeth that will bite,” American ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told reporters at the White House on Friday.

The Council resolution is a response to Pyongyang’s May 25 nuclear test, and it won unanimous council approval despite initial concerns of China and Russia. Both countries are trade partners with North Korea, selling weapons and other goods.

The text permits governments to halt and search a plane or ship if there is “reasonable grounds” to believe the cargo contains items useful to the manufacture or export of banned materiel. If the captain refuses a search on the high seas, the country whose flag the ship carries is expected to order it to port for inspection.

It also freezes all funds, credit lines, grants and loans to the deeply isolated North Korean government “where such financial support could contribute to the DRPK’s nuclear related or ballistic missile-related or other WMD-related programs or activities.”

Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui described the resolution as “complex and sensitive … appropriate and balanced,” and urged governments to “refrain from words or deeds that cause incitement.”

He added, “Political and diplomatic efforts are the only ways to bring about stability on the [Korean] Peninsula.”

Calls to the DPRK mission to the United Nations were not returned.

However, Pyongyang’s on Friday threatened to retaliate if the council imposed new sanctions, an action that it feels is tantamount to a war. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters Friday that there is no indication of major troop movements, indicating that North Korea does not intend to foray into South Korea.

Nonetheless, Seoul has dispatched hundreds of marines to its disputed sea border with the North as a precaution against any possible provocation by Pyongyang, according to news accounts from the region.

The resolution imposes an embargo on North Korea’s arms exports and makes it more difficult for the reclusive nation to import even small arms; creates a new system to inspect ships and planes thought to be carrying contraband; demanding states and institutions suspend funding that Pyongyang could divert for arms research or manufacture.

The final text, which required nearly three weeks to draft, was ultimately sponsored by the United States, Britain, Japan, South Korea and France.

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