UN debate on NK’s rocket launch likely to be delayed

The U.N. Security Council is unlikely to decide on its response to North Korea’s recent rocket launch by the end of this month because of China’s apparent reluctance to impose new sanctions against the North, Seoul officials said Monday.

North Korea’s Dec. 12 rocket launch drew swift condemnation from the Security Council, which has pledged to take an “appropriate action” against the North for violating U.N. prohibitions that ban Pyongyang from carrying out any long-range missile development.

Discussions at the Security Council on the North Korean launch, however, have made little progress as China, the North’s closest ally and a veto-wielding council member, has not responded to calls from Seoul and Washington to order tougher sanctions against Pyongyang, said a senior official at Seoul’s foreign ministry.

“Unless there is a significant breakthrough, there will be a high possibility that the discussion at the U.N. Security Council would continue past this month,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

Another ministry official said there is little appetite on the Chinese side to support new Security Council sanctions against North Korea.

“China has not delivered its clear-cut opinion about a U.N. action against North Korea,” said the official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“At this stage, it will be difficult to judge what kind of response the Security Council would decide,” the official said.

South Korea and the U.S. are asking the Security Council to adopt a tougher punishment in the form of a resolution, rather than a non-binding measure known as a presidential statement, against North Korea.

China, which has a track record of hindering tougher U.N. measures against North Korea, expressed “regret” over the North’s launch, but said any U.N. response to Pyongyang should be “prudent.”

On Sunday, Seoul’s defense ministry said, citing its analysis of the North’s rocket debris it retrieved, that Pyongyang is believed to have developed a ballistic missile capable of flying more than 10,000 kilometers with a warhead of 500-600 kilograms.

The estimated range means that a North Korean rocket could reach the U.S. west coast, including San Francisco, according to the defense ministry.

North Korea is already under U.N. sanctions imposed after its previous nuclear and missile tests. The Security Council imposed its last round of sanctions in 2009 after North Korea conducted its second nuclear test. <The Korea Times/Yonhap>

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