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Security Council's Ad Hoc Actions Increase Tension on Korean Peninsula
[Analysis] North Korea responds by withdrawing from six-party talks as promised
Ronda Hauben (netizen2)     Print Article 
Published 2009-04-17 09:32 (KST)   
On April 13, the UN Security Council issued a presidential statement condemning North Korea's satellite launch on April 5. The Security Council statement declared the launch "in contravention" of UNSC Resolution 1718 (2006), even though there was no wording in the 2006 statement against satellite launches. In the 2009 statement, the Security Council demanded North Korea not conduct further launches, including of satellites. The presidential statement also mandated that new sanctions would be added to the sanctions list in the 2006 resolution.

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Usually, a presidential statement issued by the Security Council is considered a non-binding statement. Suddenly, the Security Council has changed its processes, using a presidential statement to deny North Korea the right to launch satellites, and to impose a new set of sanctions.

South Korea has recently noted that the trajectory of the North Korean launch was indeed the trajectory for a satellite launch. (1) Lee Sang-hee, the South Korean Defense Minister, in response to a question asked during a hearing held in South Korea's National Assembly, replied that "The rocket launched by the North followed the trajectory of a satellite and later separated in its final two stages before crashing into the Pacific Ocean." South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported the minister's remarks, adding that these remarks were an official acknowledgement that the rocket was the effort to launch a satellite, not a ballistic missile.

UNSC resolution 1718 (2006) demands North Korea not conduct any launch of ballistic missiles, but does not refer to satellite launches. (2)

Pak Tok-hun, the North Korean Deputy Ambassador to the UN, referred to the fact that his country is being denied a right that other countries have, and that this treatment is not "fair." In an interview with Aljazeera, the Ambassador said that if the Security Council acted against his country for its satellite launch, North Korea would respond with harsh measures.

The Ambassador noted that Japan has launched satellites more than 100 times and other countries like the US have launched satellites and the Security Council has not taken up the issue. He complained that North Korea is being treated in a way that is different from how other countries are treated.

Some of what is striking about the action by the Security Council is the closed process used to consider the issue. There was no public discussion. There were several closed meetings, called consultations, among the P-5 members and Japan. During these meetings journalists were told the P-5 and Japan discussed what the response of the Security Council should be to North Korea's launch.

After there was agreement among the P-5 and Japan on what was to be contained in a presidential statement on the launch, the statement was presented to the other elected members of the Security Council for their approval. Despite the obligation specified in Article 32 of the UN Charter that a nation that is a party to an issue being discussed by the Security Council be invited to the Security Council for the discussion, no such invitation was made, according to sources on the Security Council.

Similarly, though several of the nations on the Security Council indicated that they favored the resumption of the six-party talks as a way to deal with the launch by North Korea, there was no indication that there was any consideration by the Security Council of what led to the breakdown of the six-party talks. The US government's effort to require verification in Phase 2 of the talks, rather than in Phase 3, as had been agreed to by the six-parties was not discussed in the Security Council.

Instead of the Security Council members considering the problem which derailed the talks, they agreed to impose new sanctions on North Korea. Since no new Security Council resolution was being issued, there was no appropriate means of issuing new sanctions. They resorted to acting in an ad hoc manner when they announced they would use a presidential statement to add new sanctions to Security Council resolution 1718 issued in 2006.

One journalist, at the press stakeout after the Security Council meeting issuing the presidential statement, asked(4):

"Mr. Ambassador, Does this presidential statement set a precedent whereby in the future, if you want to adjust the sanctions, supposedly for example for Iran, you can issue another presidential statement to change the content of the sanctions in a resolution? Is this legally speaking, a precedent?"

Baki Ilkin, Turkey's Ambassador to the UN, who is the head of the UNSC Resolution 1718 sanctions committee, responded:

"I am a newcomer. I wish you had asked the previous speakers (Several Security Council Ambassadors had spoken before Ambassador Ilkin at the stakeout-ed)."

After the Security Council issued its presidential statement, North Korea announced it is leaving the six-party talks. It announced that it does not recognize the actions of the Security Council condemning its satellite launch. There is justification for North Korea's actions. Yet much of the mainstream media in the US frames North Korea's reasonable response as but an indication of how unreasonable it behaves.

North Korea has asked that the IAEA and US inspectors leave North Korea. It says it will resume its nuclear deterrent development, as North Korean Deputy Ambasssador Pak Tok-hun promised would happen if the Security Council acted to condemn North Korea. The Ambassador told Aljazeera and other media that the Security Council could expect strong measures in response to any action against North Korea. "We don't say empty talk. What we say is what we do," the Ambassador told journalists.


(1) S Korean gov't admits DPRK rocket followed satellite trajectory, Xinhuanet, April 14, 2009.

(2) Ronda Hauben, "Every country has the inalienable right to use the outer space peacefully: UN Security Council Controversy over North Korean Satellite Launch", Telepolis, April 8, 2009.

(3) Aljazeera Interview with North Korean Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Pak Tok-hun, April 14, 2009. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjEIvw7I5Ow

(4) UN Media Stakeout: Informal comments to the Media by the Permanent Representative of Turkey, H.E. Mr. Baki Ilkin, on Non-proliferation/Democratic People's Republic of Korea. April 13, 2009.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ronda Hauben

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