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Security Council slaps Pyongyang on the wrist over rocket launch

The U.N. Security Council issued a mild statement deploring North Korea’s failed launch of a satellite rocket on Friday, but stopped short of imposing any fresh penalties on the government for its defiance of previous U.N. demands. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who is presiding over the council’s rotating presidency this month, said that Pyongyang had ...

JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images
JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

The U.N. Security Council issued a mild statement deploring North Korea’s failed launch of a satellite rocket on Friday, but stopped short of imposing any fresh penalties on the government for its defiance of previous U.N. demands.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, who is presiding over the council’s rotating presidency this month, said that Pyongyang had violated two U.N. Security Council resolutions banning missile launches.

"The Security Council deplored this launch, which is in violation of Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874," said Rice, speaking on behalf of the 15-nation council. "Members of the Security Council agree to continue consultations on an appropriate response."

The mild response reflected concern among key council members, including China, that a harsh rebuke could complicate international efforts to contain the nuclear power, prompting North Korea to respond with a fresh nuclear test. It set the stage for lengthy discussions at the U.N. on how to calibrate the council’s response.

U.S. officials say they are unlikely to pursue a new round of tough sanctions on Pyongyang in the Security Council, but that they would seek to tighten the enforcement of existing U.N. sanctions. The White House, meanwhile, announced it was backing away from plans to provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea.

The move followed a public rebuke of North Korea from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon‘s office. A spokesman for Ban, who is in Geneva, issued a statement saying that "despite its failure, the launch of the so-called "application satellite" by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on 13 April, 2012, is deplorable as it defies the firm and unanimous stance of the international community."

"The Secretary General renews his call on DPRK authorities to work towards building confidence with neighboring countries and improving the life of its people," read the statement. Ban also reaffirmed his commitment to "helping the people of DPRK, in particular, addressing the serious food and nutrition needs of the most vulnerable."

Follow me on Twitter @columlynch

Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy’s award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. @columlynch

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