Rockets? Sanctions? Nothing can stop Pyongyang's party


As the orchestrated mass celebrations commemorating the centenary of the birth of its "Eternal Supreme Leader" Kim Il-Sung drew to a close, North Korea's latest abortive rocket launch was met with opprobrium from the UN Security Council and the threat of a new wave of sanctions.

The programme of fireworks displays, and performances from singers and dancers, were followed by today's condemnation by the Security Council of North Korea's failed long-range rocket launch last Friday. All 15 members of the Security Council, including Russia and China, united in their admonition of the country's latest breach of UN resolutions.

Despite Pyongyang's insistence that the operation was for the peaceful purpose of launching a satellite into orbit, Western nations believe it was a cover for the testing of long-range missiles.

The Council said yesterday: "[Such a rocket launch], even if characterised as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle, is a serious violation of UN resolutions." It demanded that North Korea cease any further launches using ballistic technology and "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes in a verifiable and irreversible manner".

The Council announced an expansion of blacklisted firms, individuals and goods targeted by economic sanctions imposed following North Korea's nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. Under these sanctions it is banned from using, developing or importing ballistic missile and nuclear technologies. The Council also threatened further action should North Korea pursue its nuclear programme.

The unanimous international agreement on the Security Council statement will be seen as a sign of China's increasing irritation with its neighbour and is likely to add to the isolation of North Korea.

As tension on the Korean peninsula mounted, US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, led calls for a further round of sanctions and warned North Korea of a "disastrous course" if it attempted future nuclear arms tests.

Yet while thousands crowded the country's streets and squares to mark 100 years since the birth of Kim Il-Sung, founder of the communist state and grandfather of the current leader Kim Jong-Un, the launch went out with a fizz. Officials in South Korea said the rocket disintegrated over the Yellow Sea minutes after its launch, while their Pyongyang counterparts admitted they had failed to put a satellite in orbit.