You've gone too far, UN chief tells North Korea

Ban Ki-Moon urges restraint as Pyongyang announces plan to reopen nuclear reactor

Washington

Stepping up its efforts to extract concessions from the United States and its allies, North Korea played perhaps its most powerful card by announcing it will restart the plutonium reactor at its key Yongbyon nuclear complex, which supplies material for nuclear weapons.

Re-activating the reactor could take several months and thus of itself will have scant practical impact on the already fraught situation on the Korean peninsula, where almost daily threats from the Pyongyang regime have raised tensions to levels not seen in years.

But the move brings into play what has historically been the North’s most effective bargaining chip in its dealings with the West, and comes barely a day after the young leader Kim Jong-un and his government declared that nuclear weapons were “the nation’s life” and would not be traded away, even for “billions of dollars.”

The current crisis “has gone too far,” Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General and also a former foreign minister of South Korea, told reporters as he called for urgent talks with Pyongyang. Russia and China, two other members of the long-suspended six nations negotiating group on the North’s nuclear programme, urged restraint.

In Washington, the news has not shifted the assessment that the regime has no intention of provoking a war, and that the rhetoric has two purposes: to win diplomatic concessions from the West, and boost the credentials of the untested Mr Kim, who has been in power for just 15 months and is still a largely unknown quantity.

The Obama administration is as concerned as anyone that with tensions so high, a small miscalculation or single hostile act could detonate full-scale conflict. As a precaution, it has moved a missile defence warship from Japan closer to Korean waters. But for the moment it sees no sign of an attack from the North. As of today, the Kaesong industrial zone, six miles north of the Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas and jointly operated with the South, was still operating normally, despite Pyongyang’s announcement it had severed its military hotline with the South.

“We are not seeing changes to the North Korean military posture such as large scale mobilisation or the repositioning of forces,” Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, told reporters. Analysts are unsure of the North’s precise motives in provoking the latest showdown. Most likely, however, they believe, the bellicose behaviour reflects genuine anger at the UN sanctions that greeted February’s nuclear test – the regime’s third since 2006 – rather than the diplomatic offers the regime may have expected.

Treaty to regulate arms trade approved

The United Nations General Assembly has overwhelmingly adopted the first UN treaty in history attempting to regulate the estimated $70bn global arms trade, aimed at keeping weapons out of the hands of rebel groups, terrorists and organised crime.

The measure would have been approved last week by consensus, without a formal vote by the 193 members of the Assembly, but for opposition from Iran, Syria and North Korea. Today, those three were the only votes against, as the treaty was approved by 154 countries, while 23 member states abstained.

The landmark agreement requires all countries to establish national regulations to control the transfer of conventional arms, their parts and components, and to regulate the activities of arms dealers.

The treaty will take effect as soon as 50 states have ratified it.

Rupert Cornwell

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links