US, allies clash with Russia, China over North Korea tests

The United States and its allies on Monday strongly condemned North Korea’s latest ICBM test and called for measures to limit its nuclear and missile programs, but Russia and China resisted any new pressure and sanctions against Pyongyang.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told an emergency UN Security Council meeting that the Biden administration will circulate a planned presidential statement also condemning North Korea “for all of its unlawful launches of ballistic missiles and other dangerous and destabilizing activities.” would act as a request for Pyongyang to comply with UN sanctions banning all ballistic missile and nuclear weapons testing.

Presidential statements — a step below a legally binding Council resolution — require the approval of all 15 Council members, and Monday’s comments from Russia and China showed opposition to any condemnation of North Korea’s actions.

Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Anna Evstigneeva, said the reason for the “increasingly provocative and dangerous” situation was clear today: “Washington’s desire to force Pyongyang into unilateral disarmament through sanctions and the use of force.”

She pointed to a dramatic increase in military exercises by the US, South Korea and Japan, including a US-South Korean naval missile defense system exercise with destroyers on the eve of the ICBM launch in North Korea on November 17, recent strategic bomber exercises and a training attack on the ballistic missile station of the north.

Evstigneeva said such military action and possible new sanctions threatened to create further tensions on the Korean Peninsula “which may lead to unpredictable and dangerous consequences for the entire Northeast Asia region.”

What the Security Council should do, she said, is “to support, rather than hinder, the inter-Korean dialogue and multilateral negotiations.”

China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun called for efforts to “calm the situation down”, resume dialogue “and try to meet halfway to prevent the situation from escalating again or even getting out of hand”.

He urged the US to take the initiative, “show sincerity”, come up with realistic proposals, respond positively to North Korea’s legitimate concerns, halt military exercises and relax sanctions.

Zhang said the Security Council “should play a constructive role on this issue and not always condemn or pressure the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, as the country is officially known.”

The council should “de-escalate the situation early on to leave room for diplomatic efforts, rather than creating obstacles,” the Chinese envoy said.

During the meeting, there were many calls to condemn the 11.17 launch, rumored to be the first successful test of the North’s new Hwasong-17 missile capable of reaching North America. And United Nations political chief Rosemary DiCarlo reiterated Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ strong condemnation of the launch as a “blatant violation” of UN sanctions.

After the meeting, US Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield read a statement on behalf of eight council members – Albania, France, Ireland, India, Norway, United Arab Emirates, Britain 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 measures to limit North Korean advancement of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles.

“We invite all member states to join us in condemning the DPRK’s illegal launching of ballistic missiles and call for the full implementation of existing Security Council resolutions,” the statement said.

“We remain committed to diplomacy,” it said, “and to that end, we encourage the DPRK to cease its threatening behavior in violation of several Security Council resolutions and to engage in meaningful dialogue on denuclearization.”

The Security Council imposed sanctions after North Korea’s first nuclear test blast in 2006 and has tightened them over the years to curb its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and cut funding. In May, however, China and Russia blocked a Security Council resolution that would have tightened sanctions over its missile launches, sparking the first serious row in the council over sanctions against North Korea.

Thomas-Greenfield said in her speech to the council, the Nov. 17 launch was the DPRK’s eighth ICBM test this year, “part of an unprecedented 63 ballistic missiles” launched so far this year, which is more than the 2 ½ times the previous record of 25 is the Security Council where no action was taken and she blamed Russia and China for vetoing.

“We are ready to meet without preconditions and I urge the DPRK to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “But the DPRK remains unresponsive, choosing instead to continue this reckless behavior.” Instead, the Council must react.”

South Korea’s UN Ambassador Joonkook Hwang, the president’s statement, is “the minimum action expected by the international community” from the Security Council in response to DPRK actions – including saying the new ICBM could serve for a “pre-emptive nuclear strike”.

In response to Russia, Hwang reiterated that South Korea’s longstanding joint military exercises with the US are defensive and “can never be an excuse for the DPRK’s illegal nuclear and missile development.”

Japan’s Ambassador to the UN Ishikane Kimihiro told the council that in the past two months, a DPRK missile flew over Japan for the first time in five years, and on April 11, 17 launch “affected in the Japanese exclusive economic zone, just 200 kilometers from Hokkaido away.”

Calling this an “unacceptable and unlawful” escalation, Ishikane said calculations suggest the new missile could hit all of Asia, Europe, North America and Africa, as well as part of South America, with a nuclear warhead.

“It is outrageous to allow North Korea to hold the entire international community hostage,” he said.

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