Rare Show of Unity as Big Powers Chastise North Korea

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - In a double blow for North Korea over the weekend, the U.N. Security Council and then the world's eight top industrialized countries condemned the reclusive Stalinist regime for carrying out a series of missile tests two weeks ago.

Both China and Russia, North Korea's closest allies, went along with their partners in the two bodies, despite a longstanding reluctance to take a firm stand towards Pyongyang.

They dropped their opposition to a Japanese-drafted resolution at the Security Council after references to Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter were removed from the text. The chapter can be used to authorize military action.

Despite the revision, the resolution passed unanimously by the council Saturday does legally oblige all U.N. member states to have no dealings with North Korea in material or technology that can be used for missiles or weapons of mass destruction.

It condemns the July 4-5 missile tests, and calls on North Korea to return to six-country talks on its nuclear weapons programs, stalled since late last year.

On Sunday, the leaders of the G8 -- the U.S., Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Russia -- took a unified stance against North Korea, accusing it of jeopardizing "peace, stability and security" with the test launches.

Their statement issued in St. Petersburg, Russia, welcomed the U.N. resolution, and urged North Korea to return a moratorium on missile launches and to resume the six-party nuclear negotiations.

Pyongyang reacted with characteristic defiance. Accusing the U.S. of forcing the U.N. resolution, the country's foreign ministry vowed to bolster its self-defense deterrent, hinting at further missile tests.

The U.N. resolution was the first targeting North Korea since 1993, and was hailed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as "remarkable."

At a press conference in St. Petersburg, Rice said she wasn't surprised at Pyongyang's reaction to the measure.

But it was clear that North Korea would have to return to the six-party talks if it wanted to avoid further isolation, she said.

"That's really the only game in town."

The six-party formula was worked out after the U.S. refused to give in to North Korean demands for a one-on-one meeting, arguing that the dispute was not a bilateral one, but one between the Kim Jong-il government and the international community.

Hosted by China, five rounds of talks since August 2003 have brought together the U.S., North and South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.

They culminated last September in the signing of a joint statement, in which North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear programs in return for economic incentives and security assurances. North Korea and the U.S. also pledged to respect each other's sovereignty and take steps to normalize relations.

But differences quickly emerged over whether North Korea would be allowed to keep civilian nuclear reactors after dismantling its nuclear weapons programs.

Pyongyang also reacted strongly when the U.S. imposed sanctions on a Chinese bank for collaborating with the regime's counterfeiting and money-laundering operations.

North Korea has refused to return ever since.

The weekend's meetings produced a show of unity among five of the six countries involved in the talks. (South Korea, while not a member of the Security Council or the G8, backed the resolution.)

The chances now of the five parties meeting without North Korea appear to have strengthened.

Earlier suggestions that the five to schedule a meeting, notify North Korea, but hold the talks whether it showed up or not, ran into opposition from the Chinese, who did not want to give the appearance of ganging up against North Korea.

But after Pyongyang defied Beijing's warnings not to go ahead with the missile tests, a frustrated Chinese government changed its stance, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Sunday.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow