The U.N. Security Council has condemned North Korea's latest nuclear test and said it will begin work immediately on "appropriate measures" in the form of a council resolution.
Pyongyang confirmed that it carried out its third nuclear test Tuesday. The move defies several UN Security Council resolutions and brought quick condemnation from the United States, South Korea, China and other nations.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, whose country holds the rotating Security Council presidency this month, was at the UN Tuesday to chair another council meeting. He told reporters after an early morning emergency session on the nuclear test that Pyongyang's recent long-range missile launches pose a direct challenge to the international community and an unacceptable threat to peace and security on the Korean peninsula and in northeast Asia.
"North Korea will be held responsible for any consequences of this provocative act," Kim said. He added his government would work closely with other nations to see "all necessary measures" imposed to have North Korea abandon its nuclear ambitions.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters that the United States and its partners will be discussing the tightening and enhancing of what she characterized as an already "quite strong" sanctions regime against North Korea. She added that they would be interested to see if this third test differs from the two previous ones in its level of success or the quality of the test.
"Whatever the outcome, however, the international community, this council, has been quite clear. The actions of North Korea are a threat to regional peace and security, international peace and security and they are not acceptable, they will not be tolerated, and they will be met with North Korea's increasing isolation and pressure under United Nations sanctions," said Rice.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, himself a former South Korean foreign minister, called Pyongyang's test "appalling" and "reckless" and said it shows outright disregard for the repeated call of the international community for North Korea to refrain from further provocative measures.
"[North Korea] is the only country that has carried out nuclear tests in the 21st century," he said. "The authorities in Pyongyang should not be under any illusion that nuclear weapons will enhance their security. To the contrary, as Pyongyang pursues nuclear weapons, it will suffer only greater insecurity and isolation."
In Beijing, the foreign ministry summoned the North Korean ambassador to protest the development.
The Vienna-based agency that monitors the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty said Tuesday's test blast was nearly twice as large as the 2009 nuclear test and much larger than the one in 2006.
Security Council members will now begin drafting a resolution that will likely include new sanctions against the impoverished nation. But how tough they will be will depend largely on what North Korea's veto-wielding ally, China, is willing to accept.