By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, 21 Feb 2023 (IDN) — The United States implicitly accused Russia and China, two permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), of protecting a belligerent Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) for its continued violations of UNSC resolutions while firing three ballistic missiles this month. [2023-02-21]
Addressing a meeting of the UNSC on 20 February, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the DPRK's launch of three ballistic missiles on 18 and 19 February.
She said this included the DPRK's ninth Inter-continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) launch since the start of 2022. The ICBM landed in the Sea of Japan.
But without singling out Russia and China by name, the US envoy said: "We are charged with maintaining international peace and security. But in the face of unprecedented launches last year, two permanent members forced us into silence in spite of countless DPRK violations. On this vital matter, silence leads to irrelevance."
The reality is that those who shield the DPRK from the consequences of its escalatory missile tests put the Asian region, and entire world, at risk of conflict, she warned.
Later in a joint statement on behalf of 10 countries—Albania, Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, and the UK—she said all of them, along with the US, "remain fully committed to diplomacy and continue to call on the DPRK to return to dialogue".
"But we will not stay silent as the DPRK advances its unlawful nuclear and missile capabilities, threatening international peace and security," she declared.
According to a report on Cable News Network (CNN) on February 20, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's sister, who is reportedly being groomed to take over the country's leadership in the future, warned more missile tests are to come unless the US halts military drills with South Korea.
The US Indo-Pacific Command stressed its "ironclad" commitment to the defense of South Korea and Japan and said it was consulting closely with its allies and partners over the missile launches.
"While we have assessed that this event does not pose an immediate threat to US personnel or territory, or to our allies, the missile launches highlight the destabilizing impact of the DPRK's unlawful WMD [weapons of mass destruction] and ballistic missile programs," it said.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres was equally critical of North Korea calling on the DPRK "to immediately desist from taking any further provocative actions, and to fully comply with its international obligations under all relevant Security Council resolutions, and to resume dialogue leading to sustainable peace and the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula".
Earlier, Guterres met with Park Jin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, on 1 February and also with Kim Song, Permanent Representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, on 31 January. The discussions focused on recent developments related to the Korean Peninsula, as well as cooperation with the UN.
And on 20 February, Mohamed Khaled Khiari, UN Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, briefed Security Council members on the topic of non-proliferation in the DPRK.
In his briefing, he reiterated the Secretary-General's strong condemnation of the launch and his appeal for action to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
And Khiari also called for cooperation from the 15 members of the Security Council.
"The Secretary-General deeply regrets the divisions that have prevented the international community from acting on the DPRK, as well as on other threats to peace and security around the world," he said.
"The Korean Peninsula must be an area for cooperation."
He said the DPRK has clearly stated its intention to continue to pursue its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes in violation of Council resolutions.
"The country continues to implement a five-year military plan, unveiled in January 2021, which provided for developing new intercontinental-range ballistic missiles, among other weapons."
The DPRK has also repeatedly warned of so-called "counteractions" to military exercises carried out in the region and has described the Council's meeting last week on non-proliferation as a "hostile act that the DPRK is bound to take due counteraction", he added.
During a press conference at the security conference in Munich on 18 February, Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa said the ICBM missile launched by North Korea landed within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
"The range of today’s ICBM could cover the entire continent of the United States. This is an outrageous act and a provocation against the international community. Such act is absolutely unacceptable. It is a clear violation of the UN Security Council resolutions, and the international community must be united and take resolute response."
At the G7 foreign ministers meeting, which he chaired, the G7 members condemned the launch in the strongest terms and agreed to take a robust response, including at the UN Security Council.
"So let our three countries, (including South Korea), work closely together in responding to North Korea’s provocations, including through trilateral security cooperation which aims to enhance deterrence," the Foreign Minister declared. [IDN-InDepthNews]
Image: North Korea state TV airs footage of new ICBM launch on 24 March 2022.