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(LEAD) S. Korean envoy to U.N. warns of tougher sanctions for additional N.K. provocations

All Headlines 16:00 March 14, 2016

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By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, March 14 (Yonhap) -- A top South Korean envoy to the United Nations warned Monday that the international organization could further tighten sanctions on North Korea should the communist regime engage in additional provocations.

Speaking at a forum hosted by the Kwanhun Club, an association of senior journalists, Oh Joon stressed that although the latest set of U.N. Security Council (UNSC) sanctions on Pyongyang is the harshest in decades, the UNSC could further pressure the isolationist regime.

Even after the UNSC adopted a fresh sanctions resolution earlier this month to punish the North for its nuclear test in January and rocket launch in February, it fired two short-range ballistic missiles and hardened its menacing rhetoric against South Korea and the U.S.

"There is still room for sharpening the existing sanctions," Oh said, noting that not all of the content in the U.S.-penned draft resolution involving tougher sanctions was included in the finalized version.

The envoy explained that the elimination of some caveats or exceptions that were employed to water down the existing sanctions would help put further pressure on Pyongyang to rethink its nuclear ambitions.

Dismissing the speculation that stringent U.N. sanctions are aimed at causing a regime change in Pyongyang or unifying the Korean Peninsula by absorbing the North, Oh urged the North to come out for dialogue on the denuclearization issue.

"The sanctions have their explicit objective, but there are no reasons why the sanctions seek to cause a regime collapse or unify the peninsula through absorbing the North into the South," he said.

"But I believe it is true that those sanctions will have various negative impacts on the North Korean regime. This is the reason why the North should change course and take a path toward dialogue."

The UNSC's adoption of the new sanctions including mandatory inspection of all cargo going in and out of the North reflects the growing sense of urgency regarding the recalcitrant regime's evolving nuclear program, he pointed out.

He, particularly, underscored that the North's nuclear program poses a direct threat to international security and the global non-proliferation regime.

"Given that the North conducted four nuclear tests including the latest, there has been consensus among major powers that the North is reaching a crucial threshold for nuclear weapons capabilities," he said.

"I believe that the tougher-than-expected sanctions were adopted as major powers took the fourth nuclear test more seriously than before."

Commenting on the issue of Pyongyang's qualifications as a legitimate U.N. member, Oh said that it was "unusual" that a member state has repeatedly contravened UNSC resolutions or decisions.

But he hinted that the process of canceling the North's U.N. membership would not be easy considering that all five veto-wielding UNSC members including Beijing, Pyongyang's traditional ally, must agree to it.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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