UN Security Council urges N. Korea to cancel planned nuke test
UNITED NATIONS &
The U.N. Security Council urged North Korea on Friday to cancel a planned nuclear test and return immediately to talks on scrapping its nuclear weapons program, saying that exploding such a device would threaten international peace and security.
A statement adopted unanimously by the council expressed "deep concern" over North Korea's announcement.
It was read at a formal meeting by the council president, Ambassador Kenzo Oshima of Japan, and warned of unspecified council action if North Korea ignores international calls not to conduct a test.
Japan, which would be in close proximity to any North Korean test, proposed the initial text. Oshima had pressed to have it adopted before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe travels to Beijing on Sunday and Seoul on Monday with a message that the North should stop testing.
"We very clearly and strongly believe that to threaten conducting nuclear tests, or even worse, to conduct such tests ... would not help anybody including North Korea," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said. "This message is very clearly conveyed in the useful presidential statement which we today adopted. ... Let's hope that things will cool off and that everybody will return to six-party talks."
The statement urges the North not to carry out the test, saying it would not help the North address its concerns, especially strengthening its security.
It warns Pyongyang that a nuclear test would bring international condemnation, "jeopardize peace, stability and security in the region and beyond," and lead to further unspecified council action.
The council said it "deplores" the pursuit of nuclear weapons by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"The Security Council will be monitoring the situation closely," the statement says. "The Security Council stresses that a nuclear test, if carried out by the DPRK, would represent a clear threat to international peace and security and that should the DPRK ignore calls of the international community, the Security Council will act consistent with its responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations."
The statement also urges North Korea to return immediately to six-party talks on its nuclear program and work toward implementation of a September 2005 agreement in which the North pledged to give up its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
North Korea has boycotted the six-nation talks for a year, angered by American financial restrictions imposed because of the North's alleged illegal activities such as money laundering and counterfeiting.
At closed-door consultations Friday, the council decided to issue the text as a presidential statement rather than a press statement. Presidential statements have greater weight because they become part of the council's official record. Press statements reflect the council's unanimous thinking but do not become part of record.
Japan's vice foreign minister said the test could come as early as this weekend, the anniversary of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's appointment as head of the Korean Workers' Party in 1997.
Japan said it will push for a punitive U.N. resolution if North Korea doesn't heed the Security Council statement urging it to cancel plans to test a nuclear weapon.
"If North Korea conducts a nuclear weapons test despite the concerns expressed by international society, the Security Council must adopt a resolution outlining severely punitive measures," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement released in Tokyo after the council meeting.
With tensions rising, Kim met hundreds of his top military commanders and urged them to bolster the nation's defenses, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported earlier Friday. Officers greeted him with rousing cheers of "Fight at the cost of our lives!"
North Korean state television showed still photos of the bouffant-haired leader waving to an assembled crowd of about 500 olive-suited officers in dress caps. Kim later posed for a group photo with his commanders in front of Pyongyang's sprawling mausoleum for his father and national founder, Kim Il Sung.
The meeting was the reclusive leader's first reported appearance in three weeks and the first since Tuesday, when his government shocked the world by announcing plans to test a nuclear device on its way to building an atomic arsenal.
It was unclear when the rally took place, or how many attended, but it could show that Kim is trying to polish his credentials with the military at a time when international pressure is mounting on Pyongyang.
The KCNA dispatch made no mention of a nuclear test.
Kim's last reported public activity was when KCNA reported on Sept. 15 that he visited the scenic Diamond Mountain near the border with South Korea.
The North claims to have nuclear weapons, but hasn't performed any known test to prove that. North Korea says it needs an atomic arsenal to deter a possible attack from the United States. Washington has repeatedly said it has no intention of invading North Korea.
Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Shotaro Yachi, currently in Washington, told the Japan's TV Asahi: "Based on the development so far, it would be best to view that a test is possible this weekend."
Japan stepped up monitoring of North Korea.
"In consideration of various possibilities, we are preparing for whatever may happen," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said.
Japan has two intelligence-gathering satellites and launched a third in September that can monitor the North's nuclear weapons and missile programs.
On Thursday, a U.S. military plane capable of detecting radiation took off from Okinawa in southern Japan, thought to be a monitoring exercise in case North Korea carries out a test, according to media reports.
Associated Press writers Hans Greimel and Bo-Mi Lim in Seoul, Kana Inagaki and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, and Foster Klug in Washington contributed to this report.