(AP) The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution condemning North Korea's rocket launch in December and imposing new sanctions on Pyongyang's space agency.
The multi-stage rocket launch that put a satellite into orbit is considered part of a covert program to develop ballistic missiles that can carry warheads.
The council reiterated its previous demand that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons program in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner and cease launches.
China joined in approving the resolution, the first in four years to expand the sanctions regime on North Korea.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said the new resolution contains important new sanctions on its companies and government agencies, including North Korea's space agency, which was responsible for the launch, a bank and on North Korean individuals. It also updates current lists of nuclear and ballistic missile technology banned for transfer to and from North Korea.
Washington negotiated with Beijing over the weekend to adopt a compromise on a resolution. China's endorsement is a step away from the protection it usually gives to North Korea, its neighbor, which it defended in the Korean War in the early 1950s against U.S.-led U.N. troops.
China is seen as North Korea's closest ally, and its protection of Pyongyang meant that the Security Council previously denounced North Korea's launches with non-binding council statements, which are unenforceable.
We believe that action taken by the Council should be prudent, measured, proportionate, and conducive to stability, Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong said after the vote.
North Korea sent a satellite into space on Dec. 12 aboard a long-range rocket, a launch that the U.S. and its allies have criticized as a test of banned ballistic missile technology. In 2006 and 2009, Pyongyang conducted atomic tests after being slapped with Security Council condemnation and sanctions for similar launches of long-range rockets.
Security Council resolutions ban North Korea from any use of ballistic missile technology, even if characterized as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle.
The resolution imposes new sanctions under existing authorities on North Korean companies and government agencies, including North Korea's space agency and several individuals.
It also updates lists of nuclear and ballistic missile technology banned for transfer to and from North Korea and includes several new provisions targeting North Korea's smuggling of sensitive items that could contribute to the prohibited programs.
In its talks with China, the U.S. had to agree that the resolution would not bring in new forms of sanctions but would build on the existing Security Council sanction regimes.
Rice said that Clearly there are new sanctions in the resolution. By definition, any time additional entities or individuals or items are banned from action that they would not otherwise be banned from, that's a new sanction -- by definition. We don't need to have a semantic debate here.
China's ambassador, Li, said that China had negotiated out of the resolution measures that in our view would jeopardize normal trade and harm the economy and livelihood of North Korea's people.
It is believed that China may have been willing to join the new resolution because satellite surveillance has shown activity at North Korea's nuclear blast test sites suggesting another atomic test may be imminent.
North Korea vowed last week to strengthen its defenses amid concerns the country may conduct a nuclear test as a follow-up to last month's rocket launch.
Citing U.S. hostility, Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry said in a memorandum that North Korea will continue to strengthen its deterrence against all forms of war.
The memorandum carried by state media did not say what action North Korea would take to defend itself. However, North Korea has claimed the right to build atomic weapons to protect itself from the United States, which stations more than 28,000 troops in South Korea.