UNITED NATIONS // North Korea fired six short-range guided missiles into the sea yesterday, hours after the United Nations adopted the toughest sanctions to date on Pyongyang because of its fourth nuclear test and rocket launch.
Russia expressed hope yesterday that North Korea would “draw the right conclusions” and resume talks.
“We are hoping that the North Korean side will take this decision in an adequate manner, draw the right conclusions and return to the negotiating table to settle the nuclear problem on the Korean peninsula,” the foreign ministry said.
Limited displays of military firepower have become a routine response by North Korea to international pressure on its nuclear weapons programme and human rights record, among other points of contention.
South Korea’s defence ministry said the six guided missiles fell into the sea about 100 to 150 kilometres off the North’s east coast.
The launches came after the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution on Wednesday which imposed more sanctions after seven weeks of arduous negotiations between the United States and China, Pyongyang’s sole major ally.
Eyes were on China and Russia to see if they fully enact the sweeping measures.
The sanctions break ground and require all countries to inspect cargo destined for and coming from North Korea, in all airports and seaports.
They also ban or restrict exports of coal, iron and iron ore and other minerals from North Korea, and prohibit the supply of aviation fuel, including rocket fuel.
The European Union is considering additional measures against North Korea following the UN’s unanimous vote to expand sanctions to show solidarity with Pyongyang’s major trade partners, South Korea and Japan, diplomats said.
The European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini welcomed Wednesday’s decision, saying the bloc would update its sanctions regime.
“There is scope for the European Union to adopt additional autonomous restrictive measures to complement and reinforce the new UN measures,” said a diplomatic note on the latest discussions.
Analysts pointed to several possible loopholes, including interpretations of what constituted a proper cargo “inspection” and a provision that excluded mineral exports if their revenues are not deemed to be destined for military use.
North Korea earns about US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) a year from coal exports – a third of all export revenues – and about $200 million annually from iron ore sales, US ambassador Samantha Power told the security council.
US president Barack Obama welcomed the measures as “a firm, united, and appropriate response” to the January 6 nuclear test and February 7 rocket launch.
“The international community, speaking with one voice, has sent Pyongyang a simple message: North Korea must abandon these dangerous programmes and choose a better path for its people,” Mr Obama said.
Banking restrictions will be tightened, and governments will be required to ban flights of any plane suspected of carrying contraband destined for North Korea.
“These are among the toughest measures we have agreed against any country in the world, certainly the toughest ever against the DPRK,” said British ambassador Matthew Rycroft, referring to North Korea by its official acronym.
Sixteen individuals and 12 entities were added to a UN sanctions blacklist, including North Korea’s space and spy agencies.
UN member states will be required to expel North Korean diplomats engaged in smuggling or other illegal activities.
South Korean president Park Geun-hye said she hoped the “unprecedentedly tough” sanctions would push Pyongyang into finally abandoning its nuclear weapons programme.
The resolution sends “a strong message from the international community seeking peace on the Korean peninsula”, Ms Park said.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe urged Pyongyang to refrain from any fresh provocations, while Tokyo’s ambassador to the UN, Motohide Yoshikawa, said that “the heart of the matter now is implementation” of the sanctions by China, North Korea’s largest trading partner, and other countries.
Ms Power also called for a “robust and unyielding” follow-up to ensure the sanctions bite and singled out Russia and China as key players.
Chinese ambassador Liu Jieyi said the resolution should “be a new starting point and a stepping stone” for renewed talks on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear programme.
During the weeks of negotiations, China had been reluctant to endorse harsh sanctions out of concern that too much pressure would trigger the collapse of the pariah regime, creating chaos on its border.
China’s ambassador renewed Beijing’s opposition to plans by South Korea and the US to deploy a new missile defence system on the Korean peninsula, saying it undermined efforts to restart Korea talks.
* Agence France-Presse, with additional reporting from Reuters