The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) slammed China and Russia on Wednesday for opposing further sanctions against North Korea, which has conducted a spate of missile tests this year that have alarmed the West and neighboring South Korea.
Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said at a U.N. Security Council meeting that the U.S. wished to tighten sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which she said has test-fired 17 ballistic missiles this year.
Thomas-Greenfield said the effort to ratchet up sanctions was blocked by two veto-holding nations — China and Russia — which have instead proposed a counter-resolution that would relieve sanctions on North Korea over humanitarian concerns. North Korea has long teetered on the brink of a famine.
Thomas-Greenfield said the DPRK was preparing for its seventh nuclear test and the nation poses “threats to regional and international security.”
“This council should not stand for it, ” the U.S. ambassador said. “But this security council has stayed silent because two council members have argued that council restraint will somehow encourage the DPRK to stop escalating and instead come to the negotiating table.”
The U.N. has passed numerous resolutions sanctioning North Korea since 2006, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, targeting nuclear programs, weapons and equipment. Despite the measures, leader Kim Jong-un has continued to develop its nuclear and missile programs.
The 17 launches this year include three intercontinental ballistic missiles potentially capable of reaching the U.S. mainland and a missile fired from a submarine last week.
The U.S. is pushing for the U.N.’s first tightening of restrictions on the DPRK since 2017.
Russian Deputy Ambassador Anna Evstigneeva said it was “completely pointless” to expect “unconditional disarmament” from Pyongyang by upping sanctions.
“Sanctions and pressure will not achieve this,” Evstigneeva said.
China’s ambassador to the U.N., Zhang Jun, said countries were calling for the denuclearization of the DPRK “while they themselves are promoting” nuclear development.
Zhang Jun said the U.S. proposal was “not an appropriate way to address the current situation.”
“Regrettably, the U.S. has turned a blind eye to reasonable proposals of China and other relevant council members, and remains enamored superstitiously of the magical power of sanctions,” he told the council.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — all hold veto powers on any substantive resolution.
South Korean Ambassador to the U.N. Oh Joon warned on Wednesday that the missile tests demonstrate North Korea’s prioritization of “weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs at the expense of its own people.”
“The DPRK’s position is becoming increasingly aggressive, edging toward the actual use of nuclear capabilities,” Joon said. “This council’s silence … only further emboldens Pyongyang.”
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