A united UN Security Council strongly condemned North Korea's nuclear test and pledged further action Tuesday, calling Pyongyang's latest defiant act "a clear threat to international peace and security."
A press statement approved by all 15 council members at an emergency meeting hours after the latest underground test called the atomic blast a "grave violation" of three UN resolutions aimed at reining in the North's nuclear program that ban Pyongyang from conducting nuclear or missile tests.
North Korea conducted nuclear weapons tests weeks after rocket launches in 2006 and 2009, and this third test followed a rocket launch in December. The Security Council pointed out that in a resolution it approved unanimously last month, which strengthened sanctions in response to the December missile test, members promised to take "significant action" in the event of a new nuclear test.
"In line with this commitment and the gravity of this violation, the members of the Security Council will begin work immediately on appropriate measures in a Security Council resolution," the council said.
The statement was read by South Korea Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, whose country holds the rotating Security Council presidency this month. South Korea was elected to the council for a two-year term starting in January.
"North Korea will be held responsible for any consequences of this provocative act," he told reporters afterwards.
North Korea said the atomic test was merely its "first response" to what it called U.S. threats, and said it will continue with unspecified "second and third measures of greater intensity" if Washington maintains its hostility.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice called the test "highly provocative" and said North Korea's continued work on its nuclear and missile programs threatens regional and international peace and security and "the security of a number of countries including the United States."
"They will not be tolerated," she said, "and they will be met with North Korea's increasing isolation and pressure under United Nations sanctions."
"The UN Security Council must and will deliver a swift, credible and strong response by way of a Security Council resolution that further impedes the growth of DPRK's nuclear weapons and ballistic-missile programs and its ability to engage in proliferation activity," Rice said, using the initials of the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Rice said a number of further measures will be discussed in coming days with council members and concerned states that will tighten existing measures and augment the sanctions regime. She added in response to a question that financial sanctions and sanctions on financial institutions are areas "that we think are right for appropriate further action."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the council statement and said he was encouraged by "the swift and overwhelming international condemnation of this wanton act."
-- The Associated Press