The UN Security Council strongly condemned North Korea's latest nuclear test on Wednesday, and promised to respond with significant measures against the country, possibly including additional sanctions.
The US and Japan called for the Security Council meeting shortly after midnight on Wednesday, hours after the North Korean government announced it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. Seismic data and the assessments of several governments indicated a nuclear explosion had indeed taken place in the northeast of the country — known officially as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) — but it was still unclear if the weapon was in fact a hydrogen bomb, which is more advanced and powerful than conventional atomic devices.
"Our initial assessment is that the DPRK did conduct a nuclear test on the 6th of January," said Peter Wilson, the United Kingdom's deputy permanent representative at the UN. "This is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and it is also clearly a threat to international peace and security."
On Wednesday afternoon, the White House said its early analysis indicated the explosion was "not consistent" with a hydrogen bomb, a weapon that — if it is equivalent to hydrogen bombs in the arsenals of other countries — requires more elaborate preparation and technical expertise.
Speaking after the emergency session, Uruguay's ambassador Elbio Rosselli, who is president of the Council during January, said its 15 member states would begin work immediately on a resolution targeting North Korea.
Uruguay is one of five newly elected members of the Council that began serving this month. The new members also include Japan, which, just days into its tenure, found its decades-old menace — the North Korean nuclear program — front and center on the UN's agenda once more.
Speaking to reporters after the Council met, Japanese ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa said if the international body did not act, its credibility would be called into the question.
"Therefore the Japanese government will be asking for a new Security Council resolution which should be adopted quickly… [and] should be robust," Yoshikawa said.
Watch the VICE News documentary Launching Balloons into North Korea: Propaganda Over Pyongyang:
The ambassador did not elaborate on precisely what those additional measures would be. North Korea has been under international sanctions tied to its nuclear program since 2006. The Security Council has passed four resolutions since that year, calling on North Korea to re-accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, from which it withdrew in 2003, and suspend its ballistic missile program. The Council has also targeted imports to the country and levied travel bans and asset freezes on certain North Koreans tied to the country's weapons program.
Just minutes after the Council began meeting on Wednesday, the North Korean mission to the UN released a bombastic statement attributed to the government in Pyongyang.
It said the North Korean nuclear program would not be suspended or dismantled "unless the US has rolled back its vicious hostile policy toward the former."
"The US is a gang of cruel robbers which has worked hard to bring even a nuclear disaster to the DPRK," the statement said, calling the country's new weapon an "H-bomb of justice, standing against the US."
Delegates from China, which is viewed as Pyongyang's chief ally, did not speak to the press at the UN, but earlier condemned the test. Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the Council should have a "proportionate response," and called for "cool heads" to prevail.
At a short press conference earlier in the morning, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the nuclear test "deeply troubling," and "profoundly destabilizing for regional security."
"This test once again violates numerous resolutions despite the united call by the international community to cease such activities," he said outside the Council. "It is also a grave contravention of the international norm against nuclear testing.
Ban, the former foreign minister of South Korea, had been negotiating with North Korean officials to arrange a trip to Pyongyang. After the developments on Wednesday, that trip now appears to be in considerable jeopardy.
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