UNSC fails to agree on imposing UN sanctions on North Koreans

The UNSC held a closed-door meeting on a spate of ballistic missile tests by North Korea at the request of several member countries.

Ji Da-gyum

Ji Da-gyum

The Korea Herald


A wide view of the Security Council meeting on the situation in Colombia. (UN Photo/Manuel Elías)

January 21, 2022

SEOUL – UN Security Council members have failed to agree on imposing UN sanctions on North Koreans responsible for weapons development, while the US denounced opponents for giving Pyongyang a “blank check.”

The UNSC on Thursday held a closed-door meeting on a spate of ballistic missile tests by North Korea at the request of several member countries, including Albania, France, Ireland, the UK, and the US. This is the second closed consultation on the matter this year.

But the Security Council’s 15 members diverged in Washington’s proposal to blacklist five North Korean officials previously designated by the Treasury Department for procuring missile-applicable goods, notably from China and Russia.

Russia and China reportedly placed a hold on the Biden administration‘s request on additional sanctions designation, which requires consensus agreement by the UNSC members.

In response, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the UN, underscored the significance of showing a unified stance on North Korea’s missile test launches.

Pyongyang fired six ballistic missiles in four discrete launches, which were conducted between Jan. 5 to Jan. 17, in short intervals.

“We have these sanctions for a reason, and for any Member State to oppose putting sanctions on that have been agreed to by the entire Security Council gives, in my view, the DPRK a blank check, as I said before,” Thomas-Greenfield said when asked about the opposition by Beijing and Moscow. “It is important that we send a unified message as we said today.”

Unity in ‘condeming’ missile launches
Seven UN Security Council members and Japan also issued a joint statement, calling on other member states to be “unified in condemning the DPRK for its acts in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.”

“It is this unity, in speech and action, that has helped in the past bring the DPRK to the negotiating table and could advance stability for the region and international community,” Thomas-Greenfield read the statement on behalf of the countries.

The eight countries include France, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which are three of the five UNSC permanent members, except for Russia and China. The remaining five consist of four nonpermanent UNSC members — Albania, Brazil, Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates — and Japan.

In the joint statement, the countries urged the 1718 Sanctions Committee — the Council‘s official sanctions committee on North Korea — to “proactively support implementation” of the UNSC resolutions and raised the necessity of imposing additional UN sanctions on individuals and entities contributing to North Korea’s “unlawful weapons programs.”

The US and other countries also called on Security Council member states to faithfully implement the UNSC resolutions.

“It is extremely important that Member States take the necessary steps to implement the sanctions in their jurisdictions, or risk providing a blank check for the DPRK regime to advance its weapons program.”

CalIing N.Korea out for ‘aggressions’
The dissent by China and Russia was not unexpected, given that the two countries have called for easing sanctions on North Korea. Washington’s strained ties with Beijing and Moscow would make them less incentivized to lend support for the US-led diplomatic efforts to hold Pyongyang responsible for launching ballistic missiles.

The US ambassador to the UN openly acknowledged that Washington and Beijing were at odds over responding to North Korea’s “aggressive actions over the course of the past two weeks.”

“We think we have to call them out for their aggressions. We have to hold them accountable for their aggression,” Thomas-Greenfield said at an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce following the UNSC meeting.

“And that is an area where we have had some disagreement with our Chinese counterparts, where they still are insisting on giving the DPRK a pass for breaking Security Council resolutions, for not adhering to sanctions and resolutions that the entire Council in unity agreed to.”

Thomas-Greenfield also reiterated the Biden administration’s two-pronged approach to North Korea, which simultaneously pursues “diplomacy and stern deterrence,” during another interview with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace earlier in the day.

The US ambassador to the UN said Washington would put unconditional dialogue on the table while bringing Pyongyang to account for continuing to “test their missile program and ramp up their aggression in the region.“

”We have to let them know that their actions are unacceptable. It is jeopardizing peace and security in the region.“

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