What Next at the Council?

Following North Korea’s nuclear test, world leaders are looking to the United Nations Security Council to issue a forceful response. “We expect the UN Security Council to take immediate actions to respond to this unprovoked act,” said White House Spokesman Tony Snow. These sentiments are echoed in condemnatory statements from leaders across the globe, including the Chinese government, which is North Korea’s only ally on the Security Council.

So what options are available to the Security Council? Back in July, the Council imposed limited sanctions on North Korea following a series of missile tests. One option that the Security Council may consider as it meets today would be to extend those sanctions to include more punitive measures available under Chapter Seven. (At China’s urging, July’s resolution was not explicitly under Chapter Seven, but judging by Beijing’s response, all veto-wielding members of the Council may be on the same page this time around.)

Chapter Seven opens up a host of possibilities for coercive international actions, including wider sanctions, asset freezes, and even a military response. It’s clear that North Korea intended to provoke a response from the international community – and judging by their immediate reaction to the nuclear tests, world leaders seem united in their opposition to North Korea’s flouting of international law. And in this time of need, nations that feel threatened by North Korea’s missile test are looking to the United Nations.