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
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
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: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003