UN Security Council members have called for further sanctions against North Korea after a powerful nuclear test explosion added another layer of urgency for diplomats considering what to do about the North’s persistent weapons programmes.
Scheduled after North Korea said it detonated a hydrogen bomb underground on Sunday, the emergency session comes six days after the council strongly condemned Pyongyang’s “outrageous” launch of a ballistic missile over Japan.
Less than a month ago, the council imposed its stiffest sanctions so far on the reclusive nation.
US ambassador Nikki Haley said North Korea’s relentless actions show that its leader, Kim Jong Un, is “begging for war”, and the time has come for the council to adopt the strongest diplomatic measures.
Ms Haley said: “Enough is enough. War is never something the United States wants. We don’t want it now. But our country’s patience is not unlimited.” Speaking one after the other, diplomats from France, the UK, Italy and elsewhere reiterated demands for the regime to halt its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes and urged further sanctions.
Sebastiano Cardi, the UN ambassador from Italy, which heads the North Korea sanctions compliance committee, said: “Pyongyang poses a clear threat to international peace and security.” He noted that North Korea is the only country to have tested a nuclear device in the 21st century. The North trumpeted “perfect success” on Sunday in its sixth nuclear test blast since 2006.
Monday’s Security Council meeting was requested by the United States, Japan, France, UK and South Korea.
Japanese ambassador Koro Bessho told reporters ahead of the council meeting: “We cannot waste any more time. “And in order to do that, we need North Korea to feel the pressure, but if they go down this road there will be consequences.”
French ambassador Francois Delattre said France was calling for the adoption of new UN sanctions, swift implementation of existing ones and new separate sanctions by the European Union. The council aimed to take a big bite out of the North Korean economy earlier this month by banning the North from exporting coal, iron, lead and seafood products. Together, those are worth about a third of the country’s £2.3 billion in exports last year.
The council could look to sanction other profitable North Korean exports, such as textiles. Another possibility could be tighter limits on North Korean labourers abroad; the recent sanctions barred giving any new permits for such workers. The US also suggested some other ideas earlier this summer, including air and maritime restrictions and restricting oil to North Korea’s military and weapons programs.
However, Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council that “addressing the issues plaguing the (Korean) Peninsula through sanction pressure alone is impossible” because “that path does not propose any options for engaging (North Korea) in constructive negotiations”.
Russia and China have both proposed a two-pronged approach: North Korea would suspend its nuclear and missile development, and the US and South Korea would suspend their joint military exercises, which they say are defensive but Pyongyang views as a rehearsal for invasion. The North recently requested a Security Council meeting about the war games.
Washington said there is no comparison between its openly conducted, internationally monitored military drills and North Korea’s weapons programmes, which the international community has banned.
Neither North Korea nor South Korea is a Security Council member.