US will again push for tougher sanctions if North Korea conducts nuclear test

Pyongyang fired 23 ballistic missiles including ICBMs just this year. But the UN Security Council has failed to take any countermeasures, which stands in stark contrast to the past years.

Ji Da-gyum

Ji Da-gyum

The Korea Herald


Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations and president of the UN Security Council for the month of May, briefs reporters on the monthly activities of the Security Council on Tuesday at the UN headquarters in New York. (United Nations)

June 2, 2022

SEOUL – The US warned on Tuesday that it will seek to introduce tougher sanctions if North Korea conducts a nuclear test despite the continued stonewalling from China and Russia.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield clarified that the Biden administration will continue to push ahead with its initiative to hold North Korea accountable for conducting weapons tests in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions.

“We absolutely will,” Thomas-Greenfield said during a press briefing when asked whether the US will attempt to introduce more sanctions in case of North Korea’s nuclear weapons testing.

“First of all, we need to enforce the sanctions that we have already authority to enforce. And we certainly, as we attempted in this last resolution, will push for additional sanctions.”

The UN Security Council’s 15 members on May 26 failed to adopt the US-drafted resolution that would update and strengthen the sanctions framework after a nine-week-long negotiation.

The resolution was proposed by the US to condemn North Korea’s full-scale launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on March 24, which is the first of their kind since November 2017.

But China and Russia vetoed the sanctions resolution as UNSC permanent members whereas the UN Security Council’s 13 members voted in favor.

“This was an unthinkable abdication of their responsibilities to the council and to protecting international peace and security,” Thomas-Greenfield told the press briefing.

“The silence of the council, we believe, continued to encourage the DPRK to test the will of the council. So they heard very loudly and clearly that 13 members of the council stand strong in condemning what they are doing, and they are being protected by both the Russian and the Chinese veto.”

Thomas-Greenfield also publicly condemned China for having refused to discuss low-profile options to respond to North Korea’s consecutive ballistic missile launches, which include the UN Security Council’s presidential statement and press statement.

But the latest discord has more significant implications for the UN Security Council’s capacity to deter North Korea’s mounting threats, given that China and Russia cast a veto on a sanctions resolution on North Korea for the first time in 15 years.

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted nine sanctions resolutions between 2006 and 2017 in the wake of North Korea’s nuclear and long-range missile tests.

Pyongyang fired 23 ballistic missiles including ICBMs just this year. But the UN Security Council has failed to take any countermeasures, which stands in stark contrast to the past years.

The UN General Assembly is set to have a plenary meeting on June 8 to hold a debate on the veto by China and Russia in the Security Council pursuant to the General Assembly resolution 76/262 adopted on April 26.

The resolution mandates a 193-member body to hold a formal meeting within 10 working days after the veto power is used by one or more of the UNSC’s five permanent members — China, France, Russia, the US, and the UK.

This marks the first time that the UN General Assembly’s plenary meeting is held under the resolution.

“As per the recent resolution passed by consensus in the General Assembly, now they will have to explain their dangerous choice to the General Assembly,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

But questions still remain on whether the UN members can elicit support from China and Russia at the meeting, especially as the Ukraine crisis has crystallized friction among the US, China, and Russia.

Against that backdrop, the US has strived to strengthen the trilateral coordination with South Korea and Japan over North Korea issues while continuing to impose unilateral economic sanctions on North Korea.

A series of high-level trilateral meetings are scheduled to be held in the coming weeks. The top nuclear envoys of South Korea, the US and Japan will have a wide range of discussions including countermeasures against North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests during their in-person meeting on Friday in Seoul. The meeting will be followed by the trilateral vice-foreign ministerial talks.

The defense chiefs of the three countries are expected to have their first in-person trilateral meeting in around 2 1/2 years on the occasion of the Shangri-La Dialogue to be held in Singapore between June 10 and 12.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday emphasized that the three countries will forge coordination in North Korean and security issues based on the shared recognition of regional security and stability.

In addition, Seoul said it will push forward the two-pronged approach of simultaneously utilizing diplomatic and military options to respond to North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests in coordination with the US.

“Should North Korea push ahead with a nuclear test, our government will strengthen the viability of extended deterrence based on the firm South Korea-US combined defense posture,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Choi Yong-sam told a regular briefing.

“On the other hand, we will closely coordinate with the international community to make strong responses including the adoption of a new UNSC sanctions resolution on North Korea.”

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