The US and its allies have clashed with China and Russia, accusing both of blocking UN Security Council action against North Korea over its increasing ballistic missile launches.
The Security Council’s 15 member states failed to agree on a joint statement Friday condemning North Korea’s recent ballistic missile launch. Instead, several countries, including France, the United Kingdom and the United States, separately condemned Pyongyang’s ongoing missile tests.
North Korea this week carried out a record number of missile launches, including a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), bringing the total number of missiles fired this year to more than 60.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said 13 of the 15 Security Council members had condemned North Korea’s increasing ballistic missile launches since the beginning of the year, but Pyongyang was protected by two countries, China and Russia, but she did not name names. them directly.
The two countries had “bent over backwards” to justify repeated violations of UN sanctions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the US ambassador said, using North Korea’s official name.
“And in turn, they have enabled the DPRK and mocked this advice,” she added.
But China, North Korea’s closest ally, and Russia, whose relations with the West have soured significantly over its invasion of Ukraine, told the UN meeting that the United States was to blame for continued tensions with North Korea.
Two members of the UN Security Council have bent over backwards to justify North Korea’s illegal weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
And in turn, they have allowed North Korea.
It cannot stand. The risks to the region and the world are simply too great. pic.twitter.com/1UEFWixB0b
— Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (@USAmbUN) November 4, 2022
China’s UN ambassador, Zhang Yun, argued that North Korea’s missile launch was directly linked to the resumption of large-scale US-South Korean military exercises after a five-year hiatus, including air exercises involving hundreds of warplanes from both countries.
The Chinese ambassador also pointed to the US Defense Department’s recently released 2022 Nuclear Weapons Review, which he said predicted North Korea would use nuclear weapons and that the destruction of the regime in Pyongyang is one of the US’s main goals.
Anna Yevstigneeva, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, blamed “Washington’s desire to force Pyongyang to unilaterally disarm through sanctions and pressure and force” for the significant deterioration of the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
She called the US-South Korean military air drills, which began on October 31, unprecedented in scale with about 240 military aircraft and claimed they were “basically an attempt to carry out massive strikes on the territory of the DPRK”.
In June, Yevstigneeva called for the lifting of sanctions against North Korea, saying the country needed more humanitarian aid and less pressure from the West.
North Korea has defended its weapons program and ballistic missile launches as a legitimate defense against what it sees as a decades-old threat from the United States and its ally South Korea.
The US ambassador responded to the Chinese and Russian envoys by saying, “This is nothing more than a retraction of DPRK propaganda.”
She added that US-South Korean military exercises “do not pose a threat to anyone, let alone the DPRK.”
“In contrast, just last month, the DPRK announced that a number of its recent launches were a simulated use of tactical battlefield nuclear weapons to ‘hit and destroy’ potential US and ROK targets,” she said.
French UN Ambassador Nicolas de Rivières called for continued pressure at a meeting on Friday amid signs that North Korea is preparing for its seventh nuclear test.
“The current escalation is unprecedented and these new provocations are unacceptable,” he said.
The UN Security Council imposed sanctions after North Korea’s first nuclear test exploded in 2006 and has tightened them over the years in an effort to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and cut off funding.
But in May, China and Russia blocked a resolution that would have strengthened sanctions over the missile launch, in the first major disagreement in the council over sanctions against North Korea.
UN Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari warned that UN Security Council unity on North Korea was essential to progress.
“The unity of the Security Council on this issue is essential to reduce tensions, overcome the diplomatic deadlock and the negative action-reaction cycle,” Khiari said.
Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bay, reporting from New York, said the UN Security Council was clearly not united on North Korea.
“Of course, many members would like to issue a joint statement, a strong statement condemning North Korea. But it seems that such a statement cannot be discussed because China and Russia are against such a statement,” he said.