Update: North Korea vowed to boost its nuclear capability after the United Nations Security Council, including its ally China, imposed new sanctions against the totalitarian state for last month’s rocket launch.
‘‘Denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula is impossible,’’ North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.‘‘We will take physical response measures to expand and bolster the quality of our sovereign military power -- including our nuclear deterrence.’’
The Security Council, on which Australia sits, Tuesday unanimously agreed to measures that build on a series of travel bans and asset freezes. The US-drafted resolution imposes sanctions on North Korea’s space agency, targets the illicit smuggling of sensitive items and updates a list of nuclear and ballistic missile technology prohibited for transfer in or out of the country.
‘‘Some may say these sanctions are ’low-hanging fruit’ and don’t really bite as tightly as they might, yet two factors make these sanctions meaningful,’’ George Lopez, a former UN sanctions investigator on North Korea, said.‘‘It signals that consequences await a future violation of any type and acts on recommendations regarding smuggling networks and specific materials to be prohibited,’’ said Mr Lopez, who teaches at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
North Korea successfully launched a long-range rocket in December, boosting its ballistic capabilities after a failure last April.
South Korean officials have warned that the North is prepared to conduct a nuclear weapons test ‘‘soon’’ in a follow up to the missile launch.
Kim Jong Un, who succeeded his late father Kim Jong Il as North Korea’s leader in December 2011, has sought to boost foreign investment while showing no willingness to return to nuclear disarmament negotiations.
His Foreign Ministry Wednesday announced an ‘‘end’’ to the six-nation talks, which have not met since December 2008.
‘‘While there will be dialogue in the future for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and the region, there will not be dialogue on denuclearisation,’’ the ministry said, quoting an unidentified spokesman.
Incoming South Korean President Park Geun Hye has said that a nuclear North Korea is ‘‘unacceptable under any situation,’’ and vowed to ‘‘respond firmly’’ to any future ‘‘reckless provocations’’ by the North, her spokesman Park Sun Kyoo said on January 13. Ms Park, who takes office on February 25, promised during her campaign to revive inter-Korean dialogue to mend ties battered during her predecessor Lee Myung Bak’s term.
South Korea, a new non-permanent member of the Security Council, welcomed Tuesday’s actions, citing close cooperation with the US and Japan as well as discussions with China -- North Korea’s most powerful diplomatic backer. Park Geun Hye’s delegation of special envoys will meet incoming Chinese leader Xi Jinping today.
The most significant aspect of the UN vote may be political, with China siding against its ally and neighboring Communist regime in the world body for the first time in four years.
North Korea has ignored repeated calls to abandon its nuclear weapons program and to stop test launches to develop long-range ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear warheads.
In the past, China has used its veto power as one of the council’s permanent members to protect the international pariah state. North Korea’s main trading partner had been making the case that quiet diplomacy would be more effective to get cooperation from the totalitarian regime.
The Security Council last tightened sanctions on North Korea in 2009, shortly after it fired a long-range rocket carrying a communications satellite that failed to enter orbit. The botched April launch of a rocket that exploded minutes after liftoff was met with only a statement of condemnation.