Sanctions urged on North Korea

Britian is to push for new sanctions against North Korea in response to its apparent nuclear weapons test, Margaret Beckett said yesterday.

Britian is to push for new sanctions against North Korea in response to its apparent nuclear weapons test, Margaret Beckett said yesterday.

The Foreign Secretary said they must go further than existing sanctions in place against the communist country.

Mrs Beckett said Britain would continue to work with its partners on the UN Security Council to take forward the international community's response.

"For our part, the UK will be pushing for a robust response under Chapter Seven of the Charter," she said.

"Put simply, this means we shall be pushing for sanctions against North Korea."

There are already sanctions preventing states transferring missile-related items to or from North Korea, she said.

"Any new sanctions clearly have to go further than this," she said.

"It should be clear to North Korea that it must return to the six-party talks and stop disregarding the concerns of its neighbours and of the international community."

As the Security Council met in New York to discuss the issue, North Korea's claims came in for worldwide condemnation. Prime Minister Tony Blair condemned the "completely irresponsible act" which showed a "disregard" for the concerns of the international community".

He said: "I condemn this completely irresponsible act by the government of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea).

"The international community has repeatedly urged them to refrain from both missile testing and nuclear testing."

US President George Bush said it posed a threat to global peace and warranted an immediate response from the UN.

"Once again, North Korea has defied the will of the international community, and the international community will respond," he said.

America and the other permanent members of the Security Council "agreed that the proclaimed actions taken by North Korea are unacceptable and deserve an immediate response", he added.

The US has submitted a draft resolution which is due to be discussed later today.

North Korea remained defiant in the face of the diplomatic pressure - with its UN ambassador suggesting it should be congratulated, not punished.

North Korea, led by Kim Jong-il, has refused for a year to attend international talks aimed at persuading it to disarm.

The official Korean Central News Agency said today: "The nuclear test is a historic event that brought happiness to our military and people.

"The nuclear test will contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the Korean peninsula and surrounding region."

North Korea is believed to have enough radioactive material for about six bombs, using plutonium from its main nuclear reactor located north of the capital, Pyongyang.

The country also has an active missile programme, but it is not believed to have an atomic bomb design small and light enough to be mounted on a long-range rocket. Mrs Beckett said there still remained some doubts over the exact nature of what had taken place but it appeared "likely" to have been a nuclear test.

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