Seventy-eighth Session,
68th & 69th Meetings (AM & PM)

Amid Spectre of Nuclear Conflict in Korean Peninsula, Veto in Security Council Blocking Sanctions Monitoring Tool Sets Dangerous Precedent, Speakers Tell General Assembly

In a meeting triggered by a veto cast by the Russian Federation on 28 March to reject the adoption of a Council resolution that would have extended the mandate of the sanctions panel monitoring the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile programmes, speakers warned the General Assembly that the veto sets a dangerous precedent and could have a cascading effect on other Council sanctions.

“At a time when the goal of complete nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation is in increasing danger, we cannot afford to let our guard down — nor can we overlook any violations of Security Council resolutions related to this matter,” said Dennis Francis (Trinidad and Tobago), President of the Assembly’s seventy-eighth session.

He underscored that today’s debate is not merely “a procedural necessity” but “an important opportunity […] to ensure the responsible use of veto power”. The “disquieting” situation in the Korean Peninsula demands an urgent commitment to de-escalate tensions, he stressed, calling on Pyongyang to immediately engage in dialogue without preconditions, adhering to its international obligations — including the immediate cessation of ballistic missile launches.  He also expressed support for the Panel of Experts assisting the Committee established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1718 of 2006.

“The spectre of nuclear conflict — with its potential for total annihilation — must compel us to move from rhetoric to rigorous verification and tangible action,” he asserted, noting that concerns regarding denuclearization extend beyond regional boundaries to the global realm — assuming “a truly existential significance”.  Charting a path forward, he stressed the need to “resist the temptation to mirror divisions within the Security Council” and “embrace moments offered by the convenings under the veto initiative as an opportunity to be solutions-oriented”.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea cited the Council’s “sanctions resolutions” as “products of [Washington, D.C.,’s] heinous hostile policy” to undermine his country’s sovereignty, existence and right to development.  If Pyongyang’s possession of self-defensive nuclear weapons is a “threat” to international peace and security, it should be discussed first why the United States is not also regarded as a threat even though it is the only country in the world that used nuclear weapons and conducted over 1,000 nuclear tests and innumerable ballistic missile launches, he observed.

Rejecting such double standards, he stressed that even if Washington, D.C., and its followers “impose sanctions for hundreds and thousands of years”, they will never obstruct his country’s independent development and build-up of deterrence.  “Gone are the days when the United States forced on other countries the norms and orders it made at will in the international arena by wielding high-handedness,” he asserted.

Meanwhile, the speaker for the United States cited the Panel of Experts as “one of the gold standards” for independent, objective investigations into violations of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea-related resolutions. Unfortunately, in Moscow’s hand, “this will no longer be the case.” Amid Pyongyang’s growing provocations, the Russian Federation’s and China’s justification of their vote against the United States-sponsored text is “the height of absurdity”.  The Russian Federation’s veto — with China’s complicit approval — defied the support of 13 Council members, including countries under direct threat:  Japan and the Republic of Korea.  He warned that Moscow is already threatening to terminate more UN sanctions mandates that help the Council deter threats to international peace and security. 

The representative of the Russian Federation, whose delegation voted against the US-led resolution, said Western members insisted that extending the Panel of Experts was crucial to maintain control over nuclear non-proliferation on the Peninsula and obtain independent expert assessments.  Noting unprecedented pressure on legitimate authorities in Pyongyang from the Washington, D.C.-led coalition, he said the active militarization of the Peninsula is “breaking all records”.  However, these sanctions have not helped achieve the objectives set by the international community.  On the contrary, they’ve led to dire humanitarian consequences. 

While all other restrictive measures against individual countries have realistic goals and are subject to regular review, Pyongyang’s sanctions regime is indefinite.  Preserving such “draconian” restrictions is doomed to failure, he observed, underlining the need for an alternative solution.  Accordingly, he highlighted the humanitarian draft resolution put forward by the Russian Federation and China, noting his delegation’s intention to provide a one-year extension and update the parameters of the sanctions regime.

Echoing his concerns, China’s delegate emphasized that a resolution can only be achieved if the security concerns of all countries — including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — are addressed.  The situation on the Peninsula has become increasingly tense at a time when the world — reeling from the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East — cannot afford more tension.  Every effort should be made to promote a political settlement of the Peninsula issue, he stressed, spotlighting the global security initiative put forth by China’s President Xi Jinping, which advocates for a peace settlement of disputes between countries through dialogue and consultations.

For her part, the speaker for the United Kingdom said that the veto cast by the Russian Federation on 28 March completely disregards the resolutions the country has voted for in the past.  This veto makes it easier for Pyongyang to escalate its unlawful weapons programme and for Moscow to obtain arms and ammunition from that country for its illegal invasion of Ukraine, she cautioned. 

 France’s delegate said that while the sanctions remain in force, eliminating the Panel of Experts is a tragedy.  He rejected Moscow’s rationale behind its veto — a changed situation on the ground — noting that Pyongyang continues to develop its nuclear programme and launch missiles.

“We are standing at a critical historical juncture for preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the near future,” said Japan’s delegate, adding that Moscow’s veto contradicts the collective responsibility of non-proliferation.  Given the vital role of the Panel of Experts in improving the effectiveness of relevant Council resolutions, he underlined that without sanctions, Pyongyang would have acquired more capabilities than it has today.  He further pointed out that the Russian Federation has itself been violating the relevant resolutions by procuring military equipment and munitions from that country and using them for its unprovoked aggression against Ukraine.  As well, another permanent member, China, through its abstention, sends a signal that emboldens the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s unlawful and reckless behaviour.  “If these acts go unchecked, the global non-proliferation regime will be shaken to its foundations,” he warned.

“With that veto, we lost a valuable information channel,” echoed the representative of the Republic of Korea, noting that it sends a dangerous message to potential proliferators and undermines the global non-proliferation regime.  Moreover, the veto may have a cascade effect on other Council sanctions regimes and panels. However, Moscow’s veto will not silence international efforts to uphold the global non-proliferation regime.  “We will find another way to strengthen the monitoring mechanism and keep tracking [that country’s] sanctions violations,” he stated.  It is also disappointing that China — Pyongyang’s largest economic partner, accounting for over 95 per cent of its trade — did not come forward to defend the Council’s essential mechanism and abstained on the resolution instead.

The delegate for Norway, speaking on behalf of a group of States committed to implementing General Assembly resolution 76/262, said the veto cast on 28 March undermines the Council's work under Chapter VII and impedes the UN membership’s ability to comply with its binding resolutions.  “If the mandate of the Panel is terminated, we will not receive the vital information and technical expertise needed to implement the 1718 sanctions agreed by the Council, which remain in place,” he observed, calling the veto “a direct risk” to efforts to ensure the non-proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, strongly condemned the Russian Federation’s use of the veto, which undermined 14 years of credible, fact-based and independent information about the implementation of the sanctions regime and directly undermined the global disarmament and non-proliferation architecture.  Moscow’s exercise of the veto is an effort to conceal illegal arms transfers with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for use in its war of aggression against Ukraine.  

Likewise, the representative of Lithuania, also speaking for Estonia and Latvia, said the Russian Federation’s veto took place right after the head of its Foreign Intelligence Service visited Pyongyang to ask for the delivery of new weapons.  Using the veto right to conceal unlawful arms transfers “cannot be tolerated”. 

The representative of Belgium, speaking also for Luxembourg and the Netherlands, said the Russian Federation acted in isolation when it cast its veto against the renewal of the Panel of Experts.  States generally seek more — not less — transparency on the actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he pointed out, adding that Moscow’s veto runs counter to collective efforts to strengthen international peace and security.  He recalled that it is the second time in less than a year that the Russian Federation has stifled a Panel of Experts — in August, it vetoed the extension of the sanctions regime that targeted individuals who threatened the peace agreement in Mali. 

The representative of South Africa rejected the use of the veto on any matter that prevents the Council from maintaining international peace and security.  When the Council is deadlocked, bringing the matter to the Assembly must be aimed at breaking the deadlock and not perpetuating divisions.  The more frequent use of the veto may signal “an increasing lack of unity in the Council”.  Turning to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he stressed that the Council should do “all it can” to encourage the country to pursue a path towards the complete elimination of its nuclear weapons. 

The representative of New Zealand observed that Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes are one of the greatest threats to security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.  “We cannot ignore the aggravating circumstances in which this veto was cast on 28 March,” he said.   “The Russian Federation unilaterally ending the Panel’s mandate — following reports of its potential complicity in sanctions violations — is shocking,” he said, adding that Moscow’s actions “make a mockery of the Council”. 

The speaker for Malta observed that the advancement of Pyongyang’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction programme is fuelled by “an increasingly sophisticated architecture of sanctions evasions”, including the procurement of prohibited items, illegal transfers of arms and technology, and revenues generated through malicious cyber activities. 

The representative of Mexico, noting that the Council’s frequent use of the veto does not promote the search for mutual understanding, categorically rejected any nuclear-weapons-related activity and stressed that disputes should be resolved through dialogue.  In this regard, the Assembly must play a greater role in the Council’s decisions and demand accountability, he asserted.

Recognizing Moscow’s concerns, the speaker for Syria noted that its amendments accounted for the changing situation on the Korean Peninsula.  The Council should update its sanctions mechanism to keep pace with changing conditions on the ground.  The biggest loser of the sanctions regime has been the population of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he observed, stressing that the use of sanctions should not be an end in itself.  In this regard, the review of the sanctions regime would be a step in the right direction, he said, calling for an end to Washington, D.C., military manoeuvres on the Korean Peninsula.

For information media. Not an official record.