Security Council Members Call for Urgent Action to Prevent Escalation of Tensions after Latest Missile Launch by Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Speakers in the Security Council called today for urgent measures to head off the threat posed by the escalation of tensions following the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile by Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“Given the grave risks associated with any military confrontation, in exercise of its primary responsibility, the Security Council needs to do all it can to prevent an escalation,” emphasized Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, in a briefing to the 15-member Council. “The solution can only be political.”
Calling for Council unity on the matter, he confirmed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had launched the missile at approximately 2:48 a.m. local time on 29 November. It had travelled approximately 950 kilometres before crashing into the sea in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, he added. “The parameters indicate that if flown on a standard trajectory, the missile as configured would have had a range in excess of 13,000 kilometres.”
Citing Pyongyang’s repeated testing of missiles and nuclear devices over the past two years, he emphasized the Secretary-General’s condemnation of the latest launch as a clear violation of Security Council resolutions and evidence of complete disregard for the united view of the international community. The Secretary-General also reaffirmed his commitment to working with all parties in order to reduce tensions.
Mr. Feltman said he had called a face-to-face meeting with the Permanent Representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea earlier today, wherein he had stressed to him that nothing was more dangerous to world peace and security than what was now happening on the Korean Peninsula.
The meeting also heard from Council President Sebastiano Cardi (Italy) in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006). He reported on its activities to update and implement the full sanctions regime on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and strongly condemned its continuing violations.
Council members then took the floor to express deep concern over the latest launch, demanding an end to such actions and discussion on the road ahead. The representative of the United States said the Pyongyang regime had made the choice to thumb its nose at the civilized world, despite the most impactful sanctions any country had experienced in the current generation. Calling on all countries to sever diplomatic relations with and expel all workers from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, she said it was clear the regime did not wish to talk. “We should continue to treat North Korea as an international pariah,” she said, urging China, as Pyongyang’s major supplier of crude oil, to do more to influence its neighbour.
Many delegations urged the tightening of coercive measures, as well as continuing attempts at diplomacy while doing everything possible to avoid escalation. “Japan will never tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea,” that country’s representative emphasized, pointing out that the missile had splashed down within his country’s exclusive economic zone. Maximum sanctions pressure must still be tried although some Council members might feel frustrated that such measures did not produce the desired results. Full implementation of existing resolutions could bring about a significant impact, he said.
The Republic of Korea’s representative also urged patience for existing measures to work, and persistence in diplomatic efforts to bring the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea back to the negotiating table. Nonetheless, Pyongyang must not take the Council’s message today lightly, he cautioned, emphasizing that it would be a grave mistake to underestimate the international community’s resolve. The Council was ready, however, to provide a better future for the country if it made the right choices, he said.
China’s representative urged Pyongyang to stop all actions to escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula. He recalled that his country and the Russian Federation had issued a joint statement offering a roadmap to resumed negotiations. They proposed suspending Korean nuclear activity, as well as large‑scale joint military exercises involving the United States, in order to establish a political mechanism.
The Russian Federation’s representative said the United States and its allies had tried Pyongyang’s patience with unplanned military manoeuvres and unilateral sanctions. Against that backdrop of hostile moves, there was need to consider Washington’s statement on a peaceful resolution, he added.
Many speakers expressed concern over the impact of sanctions on the population of the Democratic Republic of North Korea, noting the country’s dependence on international aid. Bolivia’s delegate, alongside the representatives of Sweden and other countries, cautioned against any use of force, or threat to use force in settling disputes, urging all to refrain from provocations. The Council’s imposition of draconian sanctions on Pyongyang could not be an end in itself, but only a means to convince the concerned parties to sit down in dialogue, he said.
Also delivering statements were representatives of the United Kingdom, Egypt, Ukraine, China, Ethiopia, Senegal, Kazakhstan, France, Uruguay and Italy.
The meeting began at 5:11 p.m. and ended at 6:48 p.m.
JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that according to various sources, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had launched what it termed the “intercontinental ballistic rocket Hwasong‑15” at approximately 2:48 a.m. local time on 29 November. The missile, reportedly launched from an area north of Pyongyang, had travelled approximately 950 kilometres and reached its apogee at around 4,500 kilometres before crashing into the sea in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, he said.
The parameters indicated that the missile as configured, if flown on a standard trajectory, would have had a range exceeding 13,000 kilometres, he continued, pointing out that the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had issued no air space or maritime safety notifications. Pyongyang’s repeated nuclear and missile tests over the past two years were driving up tensions, he said. “The dynamic must be reversed,” he added, emphasizing: “The solution can only be political.” He said that “given the grave risks associated with any military confrontation, in exercise of its primary responsibility, the Security Council needs to do all it can to prevent an escalation”. Unity within the Council was critical.
He went on to note that the Secretary-General, for his part, condemned the latest launch as a clear violation of Security Council resolutions, demonstrating complete disregard for the united view of the international community. The Secretary-General also reaffirmed his commitment to working with all parties to reduce tensions. Mr. Feltman recalled that he had called a meeting with the Permanent Representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea earlier today in order to deliver the Secretary-General’s message in person, underlining that nothing was more dangerous to peace and security in the world than the current events occurring on the Korean Peninsula.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), Council President for November, spoke in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006). He said the Committee strongly condemned the continuing violations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in particular the ballistic missile launch of 14 September, which had flown over Japan, and the latest launch on 28 November. Following the adoption of resolution 2375 (2017), which expanded the scope of the sanctions regime, the Committee was engaged in facilitating the implementation of all sanctions measures, he said.
He went on to state that during the reporting period, the Committee had received notifications from Member States informing the Committee of amendments to national legislation in order to ensure consistency with the financial provisions of Council resolutions 2321 (2016) and 2356 (2017). It continued to perform its duties through the no-objection procedure envisioned by paragraph 5(c) of the Guidelines of the Committee for the Conduct of its work. In that regard, the Committee had approved updates to the informal list of individuals and entities in the Korean language on 12 September, incorporating the individuals and entities listed in annexes I and II of resolution 2371 (2017), he said.
Following the Council’s adoption of resolution 2375 (2017), he continued, the Committee had approved further updates to the informal Korean-language list on 18 October, incorporating the individual and entities listed in annexes I and II of that resolution. As for the 1718 Sanctions List, the Committee had approved a technical correction to an entity designated on 19 October, and was considering requests by an intergovernmental organization pertaining to one designated entity and one individual. The Committee had also received an exemption request from one Member State seeking a one-time entry to Donghae Port, Republic of Korea, for the vessel PETREL 8. On 3 November, the Committee had approved an exemption to measures imposed by paragraphs 6 of resolution 2371 (2017) and by resolution 2375 (2017).
He went on to say that the Committee continued to consider proposals for assistance to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from international organizations. The proposals covered matters including the participation of that country’s nations in regional meetings and programmes of the United Nations; an official country visit to examine the implementation of international drug control conventions; and the intended donation of information and communications technology equipment. The Committee’s Panel of Experts continued to investigate possible violations of the sanctions regime and had conducted a number of outreach activities, he added.
NIKKI R. HALEY (United States), noting that the Council was meeting for the ninth time in regards to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said that her country had made it very clear that the future of that country was in the hands of its leaders. Yesterday, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea regime had made a choice to thumb its nose at the civilized world. The Council had previously taken unprecedented measures, including the most impactful sanctions any country had experienced in the current generation. Among those measures was the reduction the country’s military access to the refined petroleum it needed. Many nations had also taken further strong actions, such as ending diplomatic relations and suspending trade. However, not all countries had done the same; the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was obtaining refined petroleum illegally. Calling on all countries to sever diplomatic relations and expel all workers of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, she added that the regime had made it clear that it did not want to talk. “We should continue to treat North Korea as an international pariah,” she said, stating that the major supplier of crude oil to North Korea was China. “We need China to do more,” she stated.
KORO BESSHO (Japan), recalling that his Government had lodged a strong protest against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea immediately after the launch of the ballistic missile, demanded that country cease all ballistic missile and nuclear development programmes. “Japan will never tolerate a nuclear-armed North Korea,” he said, adding that the missile had reached the highest-ever apogee of well over 4000 kilometres, flying for 53 minutes and falling within the Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone. That was not merely a regional threat, but a global threat to all Member States. The international community had no choice but to work together to put maximum pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea so that it altered its course. While some Council members might feel frustrated that the sanctions did not seem to be working yet, the full implementation of the existing resolutions, including the recently adopted Security Council resolutions 2371 (2017) and 2375 (2017), could bring about significant impact on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s calculus. Further, instead of contributing to the welfare of its people, that country was diverting its resources into pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) noted that there had been yet another violation by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which had tested a third intercontinental ballistic missile. Condemning that country’s actions in the strongest terms, he said the latest launch, which followed 19 earlier ones, had demonstrated its disregard for security. Pyongyang had been condemned many times, he recalled, emphasizing that it must now be persuaded to change course. The United Kingdom hoped to avoid the need to use military force, he said, adding that all must pursue existing measures as well as all available diplomatic avenues. Urging swift and robust action on the 1718 Committee’s recommendations, he stressed that the Pyongyang regime alone bore responsibility for its own isolation.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said that the repeated violations of Security Council resolutions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea posed a risk to international peace and security, while also threatening regional stability. Calling on the country to abstain from any further escalations, he added that the Council and all United Nations organs must assume their responsibilities and resolve the situation in the Korean Peninsula. Any solution should include not only total elimination of all nuclear weapons, but must also result in “a sustainable peace between the two Koreas.”
CARL ORRENIUS SKAU (Sweden) said the actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea represented a clear threat to international peace and security, adding that it was important for the Council to remain united and for all countries to implement the Council’s resolutions. Yet sanctions alone would not resolve the situation on the Korean peninsula, he cautioned. Turning to the report of the 1718 Sanctions Committee, he called for continued discussions on how to enhance the effectiveness of restrictive measures. The humanitarian situation remained of serious concern as well, he stated, underscoring the worrisome nature of recent reports that sanctions were having adverse consequences on the humanitarian situation. He looked forward to discussions on how to ensure resolutions were implemented as intended, while safeguarding that humanitarian aid reached those in need, he said.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said that the recent launch was in blatant violation of numerous Security Council resolutions and was fostering the growing nuclear threat in the region. The irresponsible policy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had already seriously undermined the non-proliferation regime as a whole. He welcomed the significant expansion of the relevant sanctions regime, as well as dynamic outreach activities conducted by both the Chair and the Panel of Experts. He also endorsed the constructive work of the Committee during the reporting period, in particular the update of 1718 control lists in accordance with resolutions 2371 (2017) and 2375 (2017), and the adoption of several Implementation Assistance Notices. The specific and result-oriented measures were important for strengthening the effectiveness of the current sanction regime.
WU HAITAO (China), voicing concern about the latest missile launch, urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to stop all action that escalated tensions on the Peninsula. He also observed that the stable situation on the Peninsula over the past months had failed to resume dialogue. With the nuclear issue going on two decades, one lesson learned was that when parties engaged in virtuous action, agreement could be reached. However, when parties adopted a tough stance, the chances for peace passed. His country was committed to seeking a settlement through diplomatic means in such a way where the people in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would not be impacted. His country also had proposed suspension of that country’s nuclear activities, as well as of the United States’ large scale military exercises in order to establish a political mechanism. China and the Russian Federation had issued a joint statement with a road map for a solution, he said, adding that he hoped the proposal would elicit support from the parties concerned. His country would continue to implement the relevant Council resolutions. The Sanctions Committee’s actions should be conducive to the denuclearization of the Peninsula as well as its stability and the Panel should conduct its work impartially and based on substantive evidence.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said the missile launch was in violation of Council resolutions. Over the past months, he had been optimistic that tensions would subside, he said, but the latest launch had undermined that hope. Although the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had to change its approach and behaviour, everything should be done to de-escalate tensions. All those in a position to make a difference should unite in finding a peaceful and political solution to confirm the principles of the Charter. Full implementation of Council resolutions was critical.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said Pyongyang’s latest violation of a Security Council resolution was cause for deep disappointment, adding that prospects for normalizing the situation remained very distant. Noting that his country did not accept the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s goal of gaining nuclear-power status, he said that, at the same time, it was clear there could be no military solution to the problem. Given the current conditions, the Russian Federation called upon all concerned parties to end the spiral of tension that seemed to follow each cycle of reaction and counter-reaction, he said, stressing that it was essential to take a step back and revise the policy of mutual threats and intimidation. The situation on the Korean Peninsula should be resolved by peaceful means, he said, underlining that sanctions should not be used to intentionally exacerbate the humanitarian situation. Pointing out that the United States and its allies had tried Pyongyang’s patience with unplanned military manoeuvres and unilateral sanctions, he said that against the backdrop of those hostile moves, there was need to consider Washington’s statement on a peaceful resolution.
GORGUI CISS (Senegal) condemned Pyongyang’s latest launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, saying it called into question the effectiveness of the sanctions imposed on that country. The Security Council should react in a robust manner. However, such targeted measures should be part of a holistic strategy to engage all parties with the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, he emphasized, noting that the current uneven, piecemeal follow-through on sanctions made it child’s play for Pyongyang to exploit the gaps and continue its nuclear programme.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) expressed his concern about the provocative missile launch which had violated all relevant council resolutions. While it was clear that the world would not accept the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear status, it was critical that the international community avoid provocative actions as the outcome would be grave. There was no alternative but a peaceful solution through negotiations, he stressed, adding that sanctions should be smart and not deteriorate the situation the country’s people. The military path was filled with hazards from which it would be difficult to extricate oneself. The only way out was through deliberation and confidence-building measures. The Council should exert a new political will before positions were entrenched.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) condemned the launch of the ballistic missile, the most powerful to date, and appealed to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abandon its nuclear programme and comply with Council resolutions. Bolivia, situated in the first nuclear-weapons-free zone, would always repudiate the development of nuclear weapons as they were a direct threat to the survival of the species. He also underlined his rejection of any use of force, or threat of use of force to settle any dispute and he urged all parties to refrain from provocation. Expressing support for the proposal by China regarding suspensions, he said that the Council should urge resumption of the six-party talks and the China-Russian Federation road map. As the Council had adopted a draconian set of sanctions, which should be implemented by States, he stressed that sanctions could not be an end per se, but a way to convince parties to sit down in dialogue. He proposed that the Council ask the Secretary-General to use his good offices to find a solution.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), underscoring his Government’s strong condemnation of the missile launch, said that the threat had turned from a regional threat to a global threat, from a virtual threat to an immediate threat. With the missile launch, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had resumed its irresponsible race to escalation. A priority for France was the need to be firm in the face of the regime’s disregard for international norms, he said, adding that weakness or inactivity was not an option. Pressure should be put on the regime as much as possible. That could be done by the acceleration and expansion of existing sanctions. The role of the Sanctions Committee was essential in that regard. There was also a need to be vigilant in the face of methods used by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to dodge sanctions. The firm and united reaction called for by France aimed to react to the unjustified escalation by Pyongyang. The goal was to ramp up pressure on the regime to force it to fulfil its obligations. Most importantly, all efforts must be guided by diplomacy. There should be a diplomatic solution to the problem, he stressed.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay), condemning the missile launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, noted that all such tests were reckless and unacceptable. Three missiles had endangered Japan in 2017 alone, representing an immediate threat to that country and its people. Those incidents and their ilk were a serious threat to international security. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should abide by all Security Council resolutions. However, rehashing the same ground was not useful. It was necessary to crack the cycle of rinse and repeat. Rather, there was a need for strategies to stand up to the regime. He reiterated the call for dialogue and a peaceful solution. Uruguay’s term as a member of the Security Council was coming to an end, he said, noting that during its term there had been a hike in discussions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to work towards a peaceful and political solution to usher in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Mr. CARDI (Italy), Council President, spoke in his national capacity, noting that the Council was once again confronted by an illegal provocation on the part of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Describing the latest launch as a grave threat of a global nature and an immediate danger to neighbouring countries, he said Pyongyang’s defiance of multiple Council resolutions constituted a threat to international peace and security, and that maintaining a high level of economic and political pressure was an appropriate response to its irresponsible behaviour. Reiterating the primary importance of Council unity, he said Italy was committed to implementation of the sanctions regime, but such measures must not have unintended consequences for the population. The people continued to suffer as the regime pursued the development of nuclear weapons, he noted, calling upon Pyongyang to end all nuclear and missile activities — the only path to peaceful negotiations.
CHO TAE-YUL (Republic of Korea) said the launch on 28 November of yet another ballistic missile by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was reckless and in defiance of the entire international community. Though countries across all continents had taken robust and concerted measures against that country’s illicit weapons program, it had nevertheless launched another ballistic missile with intercontinental range. Such provocations should be taken seriously, he stressed. Some had viewed the two month absence of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s provocations as a signal of its awakening to reality, but following the recent launch, well-intentioned hopes were most likely to evaporate.
However, it was premature to give up hope, he said, urging patience and persistence in diplomatic efforts to bring the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea back to the negotiating table. Nonetheless, the country must not take the message of the Security Council today lightly, he said, adding that it would be a grave mistake for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to underestimate the resolve of the international community. “We urge Pyongyang once again to seize the rapidly closing window of opportunity to resolve its nuclear problem peacefully,” he said, adding that the international community was ready to provide a better future for the country if it made the right choices.