The US and its allies on Monday strongly condemned North Korea’s latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, and called for action to limit its nuclear and missile programs, but Russia and China opposed any new pressure and sanctions on Pyongyang.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that the administration of US President Joe Biden would circulate a proposed presidential statement, which would condemn North Korea “for all its unlawful ballistic missile launches and other dangerous and destabilizing activity,” as well as call for Pyongyang to abide by UN sanctions banning all ballistic missile and nuclear tests.
Presidential statements — a step below a legally binding council resolution — require agreement from all 15 council members to be adopted, and the comments by Russia and China indicated resistance to any condemnation of North Korea’s action.
Russian Deputy Ambassador to the UN Anna Evstigneeva said that the reason for the “increasingly provocative and increasingly dangerous” situation today is clear: “Washington’s desire to force Pyongyang into unilateral disarmament by implementing sanctions and exerting force.”
She pointed to a dramatic increase in military exercises by the US, South Korea and Japan, including a US-South Korean navy exercise for missile defense systems involving destroyers on the eve of North Korea’s ICBM launch on Thursday last week, recent exercises using strategic bombers and a practice strike on the North’s ballistic missile installations.
Evstigneeva said that such military measures and possible new sanctions threaten to create further tensions on the Korean Peninsula, “which can lead to unpredictable and dangerous consequences for the entire northeast Asia region.”
What the council should do is “support inter-Korean dialogue and multilateral negotiations rather than becoming an impediment to them,” she said.
Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) called for efforts “to cool down the situation,” restart dialogue “and try to meet each other halfway to prevent the situation from repeated escalation or even getting out of control.”
Zhang urged the US to take the initiative, “show sincerity,” put forward realistic proposals, respond positively to North Korea’s legitimate concerns, stop military exercises and ease sanctions.
The council “should play a constructive role on this issue and should not always condemn or exert pressure” on Pyongyang, he said.
The council should “promote the de-escalation of the situation at an early date so as to leave room for diplomatic efforts rather than create obstacles for this,” he said.
During the meeting there were many calls for condemnation of last week’s launch, reportedly the first successful test of the North’s new Hwasong-17 missile, which is reportedly capable of reaching North America.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo reiterated UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ strong condemnation of the launch as a “blatant violation” of UN sanctions.
After the meeting, Thomas-Greenfield read a statement on behalf of eight council members — Albania, France, Ireland, India, Norway, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the US — as well as South Korea, Japan and four countries joining the council in January.
It supported condemnation of the ICBM launch, and action to limit North Korea’s advancement of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.
“We invite all member states to join us in condemning the DPRK’s unlawful ballistic missile launches and call for full implementation of the existing Security Council resolutions,” the statement said, referring to North Korea by the acronym for its official name. “We remain committed to diplomacy, and to that end, encourage the DPRK to halt its threatening behavior in violation of multiple Security Council resolutions, and to engage in meaningful dialogue toward denuclearization.”
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