Draft says rocket launch contravened resolution 1718
* Diplomats say approval of statement is virtually assured (Recasts with draft, adds diplomats)
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, April 11 (Reuters) – A draft U.N. Security Council statement “condemns” North Korea’s long-range rocket launch and says it contravened a previous council resolution banning ballistic missile and nuclear tests by Pyongyang.
The draft statement, which the five permanent members of the Security Council and Japan agreed and circulated to the other nine council members on Saturday, also called on the U.N. sanctions committee to take steps to enforce existing sanctions against North Korea. [ID:nN11344843]
“The Security Council condemns the 5 April 2009 launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which is in contravention of Security Council resolution 1718,” the U.S.-drafted statement said.
Resolution 1718, passed shortly after Pyongyang’s October 2006 nuclear test, forbids North Korea from launching ballistic missiles or carrying out further nuclear tests.
“The Security Council demands that the DPRK not conduct any further launch,” it said.
The full 15-member Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss the text at around 2:30 p.m. EDT (1830 GMT). They were expected to vote on the statement on Monday afternoon, Mexican Ambassador Claude Heller, the council’s current president, told reporters after the council meeting.
With agreement on the statement reached by the United States, China, Japan, Britain, France and Russia, its adoption on Monday by the full council was virtually assured, council diplomats said.
“We think this text sends a clear message,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters.
The U.N. Sanctions Committee on North Korea has not met for two years and has not designated any North Korean companies to be added to the U.N. blacklist, diplomats say. As a result, the sanctions have not been enforced, they say.
The statement calls for the committee to “undertake its tasks to this effect” and designate “entities and goods” to face sanctions. It adds that if the committee failed to do so by the end of the month, the council will make its own list.
The deal on the final text of a so-called presidential statement was clinched at a two-hour meeting on Saturday that ended a weeklong deadlock on a Security Council response to North Korea’s rocket launch last Sunday.
Presidential statements are formal statements of council positions read out by the president of the Security Council. They are generally considered to be weaker than resolutions.
The agreement, diplomats said, came after Japan agreed to back the U.S.-drafted text.
The United States, Japan and South Korea say North Korea launched a long-range ballistic missile, not a satellite, in violation of Security Council resolution 1718 banning the firing of such missiles.
Although the statement does not explicitly declare Pyongyang in “violation” of 1718, diplomats said the finding that it contravened the resolution, a compromise that was acceptable to Beijing, has the same legal meaning.
“It is a text which sends out, as we intended, a clear message to North Korea expressing our disagreement with what happened,” French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said.
Japan had been pushing for a council resolution that would declare Pyongyang in violation of resolution 1718 but Russia and China, which are permanent veto-wielding council members, opposed this. They were not convinced the rocket launch, which North Korea says put a satellite into orbit, was a violation. (Editing by Bill Trott and Philip Barbara)