North Korea ban allows searches, not use of force

June 13th, 2009 - 3:36 am ICT by IANS  

New York, June 13 (DPA) The UN Security Council Friday unanimously gave the green light for the air and sea interdiction of vessels suspected of carrying banned weapons and nuclear materials to and from North Korea.
But the 15-0 vote by the council, branded a victory of international unity in fighting North Korea’s nuclear proliferation, appeared toothless as several important council members said use of force would not be allowed to stop suspicious vessels.

The new resolution “calls upon all states to inspect, with their national authorities and legislation, and consistent with international law, all cargo to and from North Korea, in their territory, including seaports and airports, if the state concerned has information that provides reasonable grounds to believe the cargo contains items” that are under embargo.

The inspection of vessels can be carried out on the high seas, with the consent of the vessels’ flag state and in accordance with international law.

The Chinese government, an opponent in the past of inspection of vessels in international waters, said bluntly that it voted in favour of the interdiction to show its “firm opposition” to North Korea’s nuclear test May 25.

“Under no circumstances should there be use or threat of force” in implementing the sanctions, said Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui, citing the issue of cargo inspection as “complicated and sensitive”.

“Countries need to act prudently in strict accordance with domestic and international laws, and under the precondition of reasonable grounds and sufficient evidence,” Zhang said.

Japan’s UN Ambassador Yukio Takasu skirted the issue of use of force by explaining that if a state were to refuse to let its vessels be searched by another country, the matter should be referred to the sanctions committee in New York.

The committee would then, if its members agree, ask the flagship state to order the vessel to the nearest port to be inspected. He noted that he had never said force should used in an inspection.

The resolution adopted Friday, with its new sanctions on interdiction and financial freeze, invoked Chapter 7 of the UN Charter and article 41 of that chapter.

Chapter 7, which has been used to deploy peacekeeping operations around the world, allows use of force to implement a mandate. Article 41 allows the council to impose sanctions, which is a non-use of force measure.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who voted in favour of the resolution, said interdiction should not become a precedent. He said the resolution should steer North Korea back to the negotiating table.

Several council members called interdiction and the financial freeze the strongest tools in fighting nuclear proliferation. The measures were enacted to punish North Korea’s second nuclear test May 25.

The freeze of assets and ban on financial transactions, which were imposed in 2006, are being strengthened in order to starve off the flow of money to be used by North Korea to purchase nuclear materials and components for ballistic missiles.

US Deputy Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said the interdiction is a “wholly new framework” to stop nuclear proliferation.

“By strengthening the mechanism to monitor and tighten the implementation of these tough sanctions, these measures are inhibitive and they are unprecedented,” she said.

South Korea’s UN Ambassador Park In-kook urged the North Koreans to implement the new resolution by abandoning its nuclear programmes.

“North Korea must refrain from any action that would further aggravate the situation on the Korean peninsula,” Park said.

Park’s brief statement was conciliatory. South Korea, like Japan, felt directly threatened by North Korea and are parties to the US security arrangements in Northeast Asia, which supports interdiction.

The North Korean government has voided the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War after the council in New York strongly condemned its second nuclear test in May. It has threatened military action if either Seoul or Tokyo engages in the inspection regime.

South Korea, which until the May 25 test had opposed interdiction out of fear of the consequences, in the days immediately after the test joined the multinational Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a US-led effort to curtail the spread of nuclear technology.

Under the PSI, a number of ships have been stopped and searched over the past years.

The resolution called on states and their nationals not to provide “bunkering services”, such as fuels or supplies, or other servicing of vessels to the North Koreans if they possess information that those vessels are carrying items embargoed by the council.

It “demands that North Korea not conduct any further nuclear test or any such launch using ballistic missile technology.”

It “decides that North Korea shall suspend all activities related to the ballistic missile programme and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launches.”

The resolution calls on North Korea to return to the six-party talks and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

It also called on North Korea to “abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programme in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner and immediately cease all related activities.

The resolution gave states 45 days to report whether they will have implemented the new measures.

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