By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Monday strongly condemned North Korea's rocket launch, urged tightening of existing U.N. sanctions and warned Pyongyang of further consequences if it carries out another missile launch or nuclear test.
China, a permanent veto-wielding council member and North Korea's protector on the 15-nation panel, backed the council's "presidential statement," which was adopted unanimously.
U.N. diplomats said the council's relatively quick agreement on a declaration condemning Pyongyang signaled Beijing's irritation with its hermit neighbor over a satellite launch last week that North Korea had been widely urged not to carry out.
"The Security Council strongly condemns the 13 April 2012 (local time) launch by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)," the statement said.
"The Security Council demands that the DPRK (North Korea) not proceed with any further launches using ballistic missile technology and comply with (Security Council) resolutions ... by suspending all activities related to its ballistic missile program," it said.
The council declaration also demands that North Korea "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner ... and not conduct any further launches that use ballistic missile technology, nuclear tests or any further provocation."
It concludes with a warning to Pyongyang that the council is prepared to take further steps if necessary.
"The Security Council expresses its determination to take action accordingly in the event of a further DPRK launch or nuclear test," it said.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who is the Security Council president this month, told reporters that Monday's decision showed how united the world was.
"The swift and unanimous adoption of this strong presidential statement shows that the international community is united in sending a clear message to North Korea that such provocations are serious and totally unacceptable," she said.
"The Security Council made clear that there will be consequences for any future North Korean launch or nuclear test," she said.
She said the statement was tougher than one the council issued after North Korea's April 2009 missile launch. The 2009 statement said the council "condemns" the launch, while Monday's declaration said it "strongly condemns" Pyongyang.
Rice described the council statement as calling for "new sanctions," though what it actually urges is an expansion of the list of firms, individuals and goods the Security Council blacklisted after North Korea's 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.
Under those measures, North Korea is banned from using, developing or importing ballistic missile and nuclear technologies.
Rice said the U.S. delegation would soon propose a "robust package" of names of individuals and companies to be added to the existing U.N. blacklist, along with additional goods that North Korea would be banned from importing.
The statement does not result in an immediate expansion of the North Korea sanctions regime. Rather it instructs the U.N. sanctions committee to expand its existing sanctions blacklist within 15 days and to review that list annually.
The committee, which includes all 15 council members and works on the basis of consensus, will have to take a separate decision on expanding the U.N. blacklist. China will therefore have an opportunity to thwart any push for adding new names to the North Korea sanctions list if it chooses to do so.
Asked whether she expected Pyongyang to explode another atomic device in defiance of the council, Rice said North Korea followed its 2006 and 2009 missile launches with nuclear tests.
"Clearly the potential for that pattern to persist is one that all members of the international community are mindful of and think would be a disastrous course for the North to pursue," she said. "It will only lead to the North's increased isolation."
North Korea admitted its long-range rocket failed to deliver a satellite into orbit on Friday while U.S. and South Korean officials said it crashed into the sea a few minutes after launch.
While the statement called for tightening existing U.N. sanctions, diplomats said no council member had seriously pushed the idea of imposing new sanctions on Pyongyang in retaliation for the launch, something China and Russia would have opposed.
The existing U.N. blacklist of sanctioned firms and individuals includes those linked to Pyongyang's nuclear and missile industries.
(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Eric Beech and Jackie Frank)