Ban Praises Sanctions, Urges NK to Return To Talks

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Very interesting development. The soon-to-be Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, offered praise for the sanctions placed against North Korea while also urging them to return to negotiations. This is a radical change in the UN stance. He is not waffling here.

Ban Ki-moon, who was appointed Friday to succeed Kofi Annan on Jan. 1, said in an interview with the Associated Press that he welcomed the U.N. Security Council's "very clear, strong and unified message to North Korea" in the resolution it adopted Saturday, declaring Pyongyang's claimed nuclear test unacceptable.

The resolution demanded that North Korea give up nuclear weapons, and banned the country from exporting or importing any material for its weapons or ballistic missile programs. It also called on all countries to inspect cargo to or from the North to interdict weapons smuggling, and ordered governments to freeze all assets and ban the travel of anyone involved in illegal trafficking.

"I hope that North Korea will comply with this resolution," Ban said. "I hope that all member states of the United Nations will fully implement this resolution."

The resolution expressly rules out military action against North Korea, and Ban stressed in the interview that "we need a two-pronged approach at this time," relying not only on sanctions but on dialogue and talks.

He urged the North Koreans to return to six-nation talks which Pyongyang has boycotted for 13 months to protest financial measures imposed by the United States for alleged counterfeiting and money-laundering. The boycott began just after an agreement in September 2005 in which the North agreed to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees and aid.

"North Korea should return to the six-party process immediately without any preconditions," Ban said. "We need to have the North Koreans get on board with the negotiations."

"We hope that the North Koreans will take a more reasonable and practical approach for the future. A much brighter future lies ahead if they implement the joint statement adopted last year," he said, referring to its September 2005 pledge to abandon its weapons program.

Ban said he was "very much disappointed" at Saturday's statement by North Korea's U.N. Ambassador Pak Gil Yon, who rejected the resolution and accused the council of a "gangster-like action."

Pak said Pyongyang conducted the nuclear test "to protect its sovereignty" in the face of escalating U.S. threats and sanctions. He added that North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons if it didn't face continued threats from the U.S., stressing the country is ready for dialogue but prepared for confrontation if U.S. pressure intensifies.

"I am very much frustrated at the path North Korea has taken of testing nuclear weapons in violation of all existing regulations and conventions and treaties to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," Ban said.

This is, frankly, the strongest statement I can recall out of the UN in a long time. Ban is coming out swinging here. He hasn't even taken office and I like him better than Annan. I guess that sounds like faint praise, since I'd like pretty much anybody better than Annan, but it wasn't meant that way.

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