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UN to focus on Africa conflicts, N. Korea

UNITED NATIONS -- A bellicose North Korea, escalating tensions in Somalia, Congo and Mali and the protection of civilians in armed conflicts are on the Security Council's agenda for February, said South Korean Ambassador Kim Sook, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the 15-member body this month.

Speaking to reporters at the UN headquarters in Manhattan yesterday, Kim outlined the scope of the agenda, which his delegation takes up one month after being elected into the Security Council.

The "main thematic focus" of the month, he said, would be the protection of civilians, an issue the Security Council will discuss during an open debate Feb. 12, when member states may contribute ideas.

Kim said the program of work also includes references to the ongoing crisis in Syria, which has been under the grip of a civil war since March 2011, cross-border conflicts between Sudan and South Sudan and nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.

But Kim's most pointed comments came when he was asked about rumors that North Korea would conduct yet another nuclear-weapons test, an aggressive move he said would be in open defiance of Security Council resolutions.

"Everybody's watching," he said. "Everybody is unified and they're very firm and resolute and I would expect very firm and strong measures to be taken in terms of format as well as in substance once they go ahead with such provocation."

"North Korea has time and again violated the resolutions of the Security Council," he said, adding that the Security Council passed another "strong" resolution against North Korea in January.

He said the test would endanger the Korean Peninsula, snub the intricate nonproliferation system and would scoff at the "authority and credibility of the Security Council."

The council is composed of five permanent members -- the United States, Russia, England, China and France -- and 10 elected members. It authorizes peacekeeping missions and the use of force to resolve conflicts.

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