The United Nations Security Council failed to reach a consensus on how to handle the series of ballistic missile launches by North Korea, as China and Russia backed Pyongyang's actions as reasonable.
The 15-member council held a public meeting on Wednesday to discuss North Korea's consecutive ballistic missile launches that include an intermediate-range missile that flew over Japan to land in the Pacific.
The United States accused China and Russia, two permanent members of the council with veto power, of providing "blanket protection" to allow North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to continue test-firing ballistic missiles in breach of UNSC resolutions.
"The DPRK enjoys blanket protection from two members of the Council, who have justified its provocations," US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said during the meeting, adding that Pyongyang "clearly feels emboldened." DPRK refers to the official name of North Korea, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"In short, two permanent members of the Security Council have enabled Kim Jong-un."
The US, along with other participants, urged the council to fully implement existing resolutions and to adopt a new one to address Pyongyang's efforts to evade sanctions.
China and Russia, however, said that Pyongyang was reacting to joint military exercises the US led with South Korea and Japan in the region.
China's deputy UN Ambassador Geng Shuang said the security council should not rely on "strong rhetoric or pressure" against Pyongyang, and address its "reasonable concerns."
"Discussions and deliberations should contribute to a detente, rather than fueling escalation. They should promote the resumption of dialogue instead of widening differences and forge unity instead of creating divisions," he said.
Geng also called for the US to create conditions for dialogue to resume, as that is the only way to resolve the Korean Peninsula issue.
Russia's Deputy UN Ambassador Anna Evstigneeva also said Pyongyang's missile launches are the consequence of "short-sighted," and "confrontational" military activities by the United States, and that introducing new sanctions against North Korea would bring "zero results."
"We are convinced that the UN and Security Council mechanisms need to be used to support the inter-Korean dialogue and multilateral negotiations rather than becoming an impediment to them," she said.
China and Russia teamed up to jointly issue a resolution to ease the humanitarian situation for North Korea, and to call for council members to create a favorable atmosphere for mutual trust.
Unable to draw unanimous consent for a new resolution against Pyongyang, nine members of the security council and also countries participating in the meeting for their direct involvement, including South Korea, issued a joint statement of condemnation.
The countries strongly condemned the IRBM launch on Tuesday, as well as the seven other ballistic missile launches conducted since Sept. 25, and pointed out that the regime has carried out over 35 test-firings this year alone.
"These launches violate multiple Security Council resolutions and pose a threat to not only the region, but to the entire international community," Thomas-Greenfield said, delivering the joint statement on behalf of Albania, Brazil, France, India, Ireland, Japan, Norway, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
While urging the North to return to dialogue, the countries said they "will not stay silent as the DPRK works to undermine the global nonproliferation regime and threaten the international community."
"We call on all UN member states, especially council members, to join us in condemning this reckless behavior and in urging the DPRK to abandon in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner its unlawful weapons programs and engage in diplomacy toward denuclearization," she added.
While not a member of the council, South Korea attended the meeting as a directly interested party, according to Seoul’s Foreign Ministry.
The UNSC imposed sanctions on Pyongyang after its first nuclear test in 2006.
In May, the US had pushed to impose more UN sanctions on North Korea as it resumed its launch of ballistic missiles this year. But the resolution failed to pass as China and Russia vetoed the move.
Including the one on Wednesday, four UNSC public meetings have been held this year related to North Korean nonproliferation -- once in March and twice in May.
Amid escalating threats from North Korea, the US, the South and Japan are seen as strengthening their bonds on the security front, exchanging consecutive calls on all levels to reaffirm their commitments to deter the North’s provocations together.
After Pyongyang test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles early Thursday morning, Seoul’s top nuclear envoy held bilateral talks by phone with US and Japanese counterparts.
In their calls, the three sides strongly condemned the North for its consecutive ballistic missile launches despite strong warnings from the international society, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said in a press release.
They also called for the North to immediately stop with its provocations that clearly violate multiple UNSC resolutions.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)