NEW YORK, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- The 15-member U.N. Security Council, voting unanimously, tightened existing sanctions against North Korea for its long-range rocket launch last month.
The council members acted quickly after receiving a draft resolution reached by the United States and China in response to North Korea's Dec. 12 rocket launch in violation of existing U.N. sanctions imposed after the Communist country's earlier missile and two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
The North had claimed the December launch was to place a satellite in orbit, but it was strongly condemned by the United Nations and Western nations who saw it as a coverup to test the North's intercontinental ballistic missile capability.
On Tuesday, the Security Council reiterated its "condemnation" of the North's December "missile launch" and "more sharply targeted sanctions on that country, while again demanding an end to its nuclear and ballistic tests," U.N. News said.
The tightened sanctions would include new travel bans and asset freezes on numerous individual North Koreans including officials of North Korea's missile launch facility and the satellite control center, and a banking official involved in the construction of the missile. Companies and committees involved in the rocket launch were also included in the asset freeze.
The council called on member states to exercise "enhanced vigilance" in preventing the transfer of funds related to North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programs. The resolution directed the U.N. sanctions committee to issue notices when vessel operators refuse to undergo inspection for cargo being imported into North Korea and also specified how nations may dispose of embargoed items when they are confiscated.
In condemning the North's Dec. 12 rocket launch, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had said it was undertaken over the objections of the international community and in clear violation of Security Council Resolution 1874 (2009), which demanded the North not conduct any launch using ballistic missile technology.
Resolution 1874 was imposed after North Korea refused to heed demands against conducting any further nuclear or missile tests.
In Tuesday's resolution, the council also said it reaffirmed its desire for a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the situation and called for the resumption of stalled six-party talks on the North's denuclearization. The six nations in the talks include the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
Further talks have not been held after North Korea walked away in April 2009 over U.N. criticism of its similar rocket launch.
Welcoming the adoption of the new resolution, Ban in a statement said, "Speaking with one voice, the Security Council reiterated its firm stance that (North Korea's) pursuit of nuclear weapons, including means of delivery, is unacceptable." He urged the North to refrain from taking any measures that could exacerbate tensions on the Korean peninsula, including any further launches that use ballistic missile technology or a nuclear test.
Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the resolution is a firm, united and appropriate response to "North Korea's reckless act, and that strict enforcement of sanctions is essential to address the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and missile programs," Voice of America reported.
The support of China for the resolution was crucial as it is a close ally of North Korea and is also one of the five permanent members of the Security Council with veto power.
China's U.N. Ambassador Li Baodong welcomed adoption of the resolution and urged the parties to use it to make progress on the political and diplomatic fronts and avoid an escalation of tension on the Korean peninsula.
"The message is very strong and clear from this resolution. That is, all stakeholders should work together, should talk to each other, and address concerns to consultations and to have early resumption of six-party talks," Li was quoted as saying.