UN Votes to Punish North Korea for Nuclear Test

The Security Council has voted unanimously to punish North Korea for its apparent nuclear test. Pyongyang's ambassador immediately rejected the measure and walked out of the Council chamber.

The Council held an unusual Saturday session to adopt a resolution imposing legally binding sanctions on North Korea. All 15 members co-sponsored the U.S. drafted measure, as a way as showing the Council's unity.

The resolution permits all countries to inspect cargo going to or from North Korea to check for anything related to weapons of mass destruction. It also demands that Pyongyang abandon its nuclear weapons program.

But in a concession to Russia and China, the measure contains language that would not allow military action to enforce it.

America's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said he was pleased with prompt passage of the resolution, six days after Pyongyang announced an underground nuclear explosion. In a veiled job at Iran, he said the swift response should send a message to all would-be proliferators. "The proclaimed test of a nuclear device by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea unquestionably poses one of gravest threats to international peace and security that this council has ever had to confront. Today we are sending a strong a clear message to North Korea and other would-be proliferators that there will be serious repercussions in continuing to pursue weapons of mass destruction," he said.

Bolton made clear, however, that sanctions would not affect humanitarian relief efforts in North Korea. "The reason is clear: the concern of the Security Council is with the regime in Pyongyang, not the starving and suffering people of North Korea," he said.

China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya welcomed the toughly worded measure. He said Pyongyang's apparent nuclear test had been "flagrantly conducted in disregard" of the international community's opposition.

But in comments to reporters after the meeting, he said China continues to oppose the inspection of North Korean cargo, and warned against what he called "provocative steps. "We are not in favor of inspections. As a general principle we feel that it will lead to negative consequences. Has to be exercised with great care," he said.

North Korea immediately rejected the resolution. Pyongyang's U.N. Ambassador Pak Gil Yon walked out of the Council chamber after accusing members of what he called "gangster-like behavior". He said Pyongyang's decision to pursue nuclear weapons was a response to hostile policies from Washington. "It is gangster-like for the Security Council to have adopted today a coercive resolution while neglecting the nuclear threat and moves for sanctions and pressure of the United States against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. This clearly testifites that the Security Council has completely lost its impartiality and still persists in applying double standards in its work," he said.

Before walking out, the North Korean envoy threatened what he called "physical countermeasures" to resist pressure from the United States. "If the United States increased pressure on the Democratic People's republic of Korea persistently, D.P.R.K. will continue to take physical counter measures, considering it declaration of war," he said.

President Bush Saturday said the Council's swift and tough action it shows the world is united in opposition to North Korea's nuclear ambitions. He urged Pyongyang's leaders to heed the message. "I have said all along there is a better way forward for North Korea. There's a better way forward for the people of North Korea. If the leader of North Korea were to verifiably end his weapons programs, the United States and other nations would be willing to help the nation recover economically," he said.

U.S. diplomats say Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is planning a trip to Asia next week in an attempt to gather further diplomatic pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

But those officials say they are still not sure whether the North Korean explosion was nuclear or conventional.

U.S. officials were quoted Friday as saying some traces of radiation had been detected in air samples collected near the test site. But South Korean and Japanese officials say they have not found any radioactivity that would confirm the North Korean claim.