Accidental Escalation of Tensions Could Spark Conflict on Korean Peninsula, Secretary-General Warns in Briefing to Security Council

SC/13121
15 December 2017
8137th Meeting (AM)

Accidental Escalation of Tensions Could Spark Conflict on Korean Peninsula, Secretary-General Warns in Briefing to Security Council

Secretary of State Rejects Nuclear-Armed Pyongyang, as Delegate Calls United States ‘Ring Leader of Proliferation’

The risk of an accidental escalation of tensions leading to conflict was being multiplied by misplaced overconfidence, dangerous narratives and rhetoric, as well as a lack of communication channels, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council today.

Briefing Council members on non-proliferation/Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he emphasized that it was time for the immediate re-establishment and strengthening of communications channels, including inter-Korean and military-to- military ones, so as to lower the risk of miscalculation or misunderstanding.

“Any military action would have devastating and unpredictable consequences,” he stressed.  “Diplomatic engagement is the only pathway to sustainable peace and denuclearization,” he added, stressing:  “We must do everything we can to reach that objective and avoid a level of danger that would be unpredictable in its trajectory and catastrophic in its consequences.”

Underlining the essential role of Council unity in achieving denuclearization, he said it would help to create the space for diplomatic initiatives aimed at realizing that goal in a peaceful manner.  “The Secretariat and I are your partner in this effort,” he said, adding: “My good offices are available”.  The Secretariat brought impartiality and the norms of peaceful resolution, in accordance with international law, as well as channels of communication with all parties to narrow differences and encourage confidence.

After a year of blatant disregard for the will and resolutions of the Council through accelerated testing of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, he continued, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had heightened tensions, he said, reiterating his call for that country’s leadership to comply with resolutions and “allow space for the resumption of dialogue on denuclearization and sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula”.

Reiterating the importance of disassociating the security situation from the humanitarian imperative, he confirmed the severity of the food insecurity crisis in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, noting that humanitarian appeals were only 30 per cent funded.  He appealed to all Member States to “carefully consider the humanitarian principles that underpin our work” and demonstrate their generosity to that country’s people.

Council members echoed the Secretary-General’s call for unity and avoidance of military conflict, while also expressing sympathy for the plight of the citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Most delegates stressed the severity of the threat posed by that country in light of its continued flouting of Council resolutions, its accelerated development of dangerous weapons and its bellicose rhetoric.

Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs said that the launch of a missile in November had made it clear that Pyongyang was not interested in returning to meaningful dialogue, which could only resume if the regime demonstrated signs of reversing its current course.  Given its provocations, including the abduction of Japanese citizens, pressure on Pyongyang must be maximized through full implementation of the existing sanctions and severing diplomatic ties, he said.  “Let us send a clear and unified message together here that the international community will never accept a nuclear-armed [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea].”

The Secretary of State of the United States also said a nuclear [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] was unacceptable, calling for further unilateral action and appealing to China and the Russian Federation to increase pressure on Pyongyang.  He also objected to the Russian Federation’s use of labourers from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in conditions resembling slavery.  Urging all nations to join efforts to achieve complete and verifiable denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, he emphasized that all his country’s options for countering the threat were on the table.  The United States did not seek or want war and hoped that pressure and diplomacy would produce a resolution, he said.  He added that continuing to allow labourers from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to toil in conditions resembling slavery inside the Russian Federation called Moscow’s commitment to peace into question.

Representatives of China, Russian Federation and Bolivia underlined the need to understand that the sanctions had been imposed in order to spark negotiations, and were not an end in themselves.  All parties must seek to reduce tensions in order for negotiations to succeed.  They expressed support for the China-Russian Federation road map entailing Pyongyang’s suspension of nuclear-weapons development, accompanied by the suspension of large-scale military exercises by the United States and others.  They added that the imposition of unilateral sanctions undermined Council actions, while warning that there was no military solution to the situation.

China’s representative called for an end to provocative rhetoric and actions on all sides by all parties, urging calm, restraint and the creation of the conditions for turning the situation around.  China had implemented the Council sanctions comprehensively, paying a higher price than any other States for its compliance, and no one should cast doubt on its actions, he emphasized, calling on all parties to abandon the “cold war thinking” that hung over the issue. 

The Russian Federation’s representative rejected the image of slavery evoked by the Secretary of State of the United States, saying that the “most dramatic situation” before the Council was exacerbated by military exercises and confrontational rhetoric.  Taunts could lead to irreversible consequences, he warned.

Following statements by Council members, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea described today’s meeting as nothing but a desperate measure plotted by the United States, which was terrified by his country’s “incredible might”, and was pouring astronomical sums into modernizing its nuclear arsenal.  Japan also sought to produce such armaments, he added.  In that context, Pyongyang’s possession of nuclear weapons was a self-defence measure intended to protect national sovereignty, he said, explaining that it was for that reason that his country had justifiably withdrawn from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The Republic of Korea’s representative said the international community must uphold its principles while firmly responding to Pyongyang’s reckless behaviour.  At the same time, the doors to dialogue and peace should not be shut, he emphasized, urging the neighbouring country to join the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.  The event should be considered an “Olympics for peace”, he said, urging Pyongyang to seize that opportunity for dialogue.

Also speaking today were foreign ministers and other representatives of Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Egypt, France, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Uruguay, Senegal and Italy.

Taking the floor a second time were speakers representing Ukraine, Russian Federation, United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

The meeting began at 10:20 a.m. and ended at 12:37 p.m.

Briefing

ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, described the situation on the Korean Peninsula as the most dangerous peace and security issue in the world today, stating: “I am deeply concerned by the risk of military confrontation, including as a result of unintended escalation or miscalculation.”  Noting that the recent visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by the Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs had been the first exchange between Secretariat and Pyongyang officials in almost eight years, he said it had come at the end of a year that had seen that country conducting activities related to its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes at an “alarming and accelerated pace”, including the testing of a two‑stage thermonuclear weapon and the launching of 20 ballistic missiles, two of which had intercontinental range and two of which had overflown Japan.

He went on to emphasize that no aviation or maritime safety notifications had been given for any of the launches, noting that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could only monitor nuclear developments through satellite imagery.  The Agency had observed signs of a centrifuge and enrichment facility, and continued to observe indications of ongoing mining, milling and concentration activities.  “The [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] remains the only country to continue to break the norm against nuclear testing,” he pointed out.  “Its actions show blatant disregard for the will and resolutions of the Security Council and undermines the international norm against nuclear testing and the nuclear non‑proliferation regime.”  The strongest sanctions regime yet had been imposed on the country, he said, reiterating his call on the Pyongyang leadership to comply with Council resolutions and allow space for the resumption of dialogue on denuclearization and sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“While all concerned seek to avoid an accidental escalation leading to conflict, the risk is being multiplied by misplaced overconfidence, dangerous narratives and rhetoric, and the lack of communication channels,” he continued.  It was time to immediately re‑establish and strengthen communications channels, including inter‑Korean and military‑to‑military channels, so as to lower the risk of miscalculation or misunderstanding, he stressed, warning: “Any military action would have devastating and unpredictable consequences.”  Underlining the essential role of the Security Council unity in achieving denuclearization, he said it would help to create the space for diplomatic initiatives aimed at realizing that goal in a peaceful manner.  “The Secretariat and I are your partner in this effort”, he said, adding that “my good offices are available”.  The Secretariat brought impartiality and the norms of peaceful resolution, in accordance with international law, as well as channels of communication with all parties to narrow differences and encourage confidence‑building measures.

Addressing the Council’s humanitarian and human rights concerns, he reiterated the importance of disassociating the peace and security situation from the humanitarian imperative, affirming the severity of the food insecurity crisis in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Humanitarian appeals were only 30 per cent funded, he noted, appealing to all Member States to “carefully consider the humanitarian principles that underpin our work” and demonstrate their generosity to that country’s people.  Suggesting that the Winter Olympic Games about to open in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea, could foster an atmosphere of peace, development, tolerance and understanding on the Korean Peninsula and beyond, he affirmed that “diplomatic engagement is the only pathway to sustainable peace and denuclearization”, stressing that “we must do everything we can to reach that objective and avoid a level of danger that would be unpredictable in its trajectory and catastrophic in its consequences.”

Statements

TARO KONO, Council President for December and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, spoke in his national capacity, saying that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been escalating its outrageous acts of provocation in flagrant violation of Council resolutions.  It had launched 40 ballistic missiles over the past two years, two of which had flown over Japan.  “Their defiance of the authority of this Council is totally unacceptable,” he emphasized, noting that Pyongyang’s November missile launch had made clear it was not interested in returning to meaningful dialogue.  Noting that Pyongyang purported its programmes to be for its own security, he described its November launch as an extremely dangerous act that could affect the safety of any other Member State.  Stressing that Japan had never set forcible regime change in other countries as a goal, he cautioned against repeating such mistakes.

He went on to emphasize that dialogue should not be held for its own sake, adding that Pyongyang’s commitment and concrete actions towards denuclearization was a prerequisite to meaningful dialogue.  Urging the international community to maximize pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by all means available, he said that United Nations sanctions measures were effective and should be implemented in full.  He called upon all Member States to take further measures to stop the movement of persons, goods and funds to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including by severing diplomatic ties.  The threat posed by that country included its capacity to produce biological and chemical weapons, as well as its cyberspace activities, he said, suggesting that Pyongyang might be acquiring funds to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes further by selling weapons or through cybertheft.

Pyongyang’s programmes were being developed at the expense of the people’s welfare, he said, emphasizing that grave violations of their human rights could not be overlooked.  Recalling Pyongyang’s abduction of Japanese citizens, he noted that many remained in custody within the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  A comprehensive resolution of the abductions, nuclear testing and ballistic missile launch issues was the only way to maintain international peace and security, he said.  Pyongyang could boost its economy dramatically and improve the welfare of its people if it chose the right path, he pointed out.  “Let us send a clear and unified message together here that the international community will never accept a nuclear‑armed North Korea,” he stressed.

REX W. TILLERSON, Secretary of State of the United States, described the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as the greatest national security threat to his country and a direct threat to the entire world.  Through a series of robust resolutions, the Council had played its role by imposing consequences.  Underlining that a nuclear Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was not acceptable and that all Member States must implement all Council resolutions, he said that the United States had initiated a campaign of sanctions to pressure Pyongyang into starting negotiations.  Unilateral action would further isolate the country politically and economically, he added, calling upon China and the Russian Federation to increase pressure.  Continuing to allow Democratic People’s Republic of Korea labourers to toil in conditions of slavery inside the Russian Federation calls Moscow’s commitment to peace into question, he added.

Noting that Pyongyang portrayed sanctions as harmful to women and children, he said the regime had the capability to feed them if it chose the welfare of its people over the development of weapons.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea could join the community of nations or condemn its people to poverty.  The regime claimed that its nuclear programme was necessary for its security, but it had only made the country less secure.  The United States had all options on the table, but did not seek or want war with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he emphasized, expressing hope that diplomacy would produce a resolution.  However, Pyongyang must cease its current behaviour before talks could occur, he affirmed, stressing that his country would continue its campaign of pressure until denuclearization was achieved, while keeping channels of communication open.  The United States asked all nations to join efforts for complete and verifiable denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said the situation on the Korean Peninsula was the greatest threat to international peace and security facing the world today.  The Security Council had been called together repeatedly in 2017 to address Pyongyang’s illegal testing of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, she noted.  Welcoming the presence of Pyongyang’s representatives in today’s meeting, she urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to return to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and the IAEA safeguards.  She emphasized the need for improved monitoring and targeted capacity‑building measures so as to ensure that the sanctions adopted under resolution 2375 (2017) — the most rigorous ever — had their desired effect.  It was also crucial to uphold the humanitarian exemptions that the sanctions regime provided for, she added.  The current tensions raised the risk of misunderstandings, and there was need to explore regional security cooperation and arrangements in order to reduce those tensions.

PAVLO KLIMKIN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, said recent developments proved Pyongyang’s arrogant defiance in ignoring repeated calls to halt its illegal activity.  Unprecedented provocative actions over the last two years had been met with the most robust sanctions regime in history, he noted, saying that Security Council resolution 2375 (2017) sent clear signals to Pyongyang.  The Council had also indicated the way out of the crisis by reaffirming its commitment to a peaceful and diplomatic solution, he said, noting that the response had been another missile test.  Despite all efforts to curb Pyongyang’s aggressive ambitions, it was closer to having a fully functional nuclear arsenal, he said.

Recalling that his country had marked the twenty‑third anniversary of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances in connection with its accession to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty, he said that, in return for Ukraine’s voluntary renunciation of its nuclear arsenal, the three nuclear‑weapon States had committed themselves to respect the country’s independence, sovereignty and existing borders.  However, the Russian Federation, one of the signatories, had violated those obligations, he said.  Its illegal occupation of Crimea and ongoing aggression in Ukraine’s Donbass region had left the low‑enriched uranium research reactor in Sevastopol, two nuclear repositories and more than 1,200 radionuclide sources without the due control of the Ukrainian national regulator.

MARK FIELD, Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific of the United Kingdom, said the Non‑Proliferation Treaty was a cornerstone of international security and all nations must stand by their commitments to it.  In addition, it was the duty of Council members to safeguard the system of collective security, he said, noting that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was systematically rebuffing their efforts in that regard.  He condemned reported severe violations of human rights in that country as well as its weapons programmes, emphasizing the responsibility of all States to implement the sanctions so they could have the desired results.  Pressure must be increased through the sharing of information and other means to prevent the evasion of sanctions.  The regime’s leader must know that he had two choices: greater poverty and isolation; or joining the community of law‑abiding nations, with his people expressing themselves in freedom.  “We must all work together here to make him make the right choice,” he said, stressing that all tools must be used to send that message.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), reiterating strong condemnation of the weapons programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, affirmed his country’s support for the non‑proliferation regime and for Security Council resolutions.  The repeated flouting of Council resolutions threatened the security of countries beyond the Asia‑Pacific region, he said, calling upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to refrain from any escalation that could heighten tensions.  Pyongyang should accede again to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty as a non‑nuclear‑weapon State and abide by the rules in that context.  A peaceful settlement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula should rid it of nuclear weapons and bring about peaceful relations between the two States, he said, while underlining that sanctions must not be applied without a horizon of engagement to resolve the crisis.

WU HAITAO (China), affirming his country’s firm opposition to the development of nuclear weapons by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, urged that country to abide by Security Council resolutions.  Escalating tensions were at risk of spiralling out of control, he said, adding that they had complex historical causes.  What was clear, however, was that when the parties respected each other’s concerns, advances were possible.  However, there was currently a vicious cycle of tough posturing and confrontation that was exacerbating the threat.  While the option of force was unacceptable, China called for an end to provocative rhetoric and actions, he said, adding that the parties should remain calm, exercise restraint and create the conditions for turning the situation around.

While international obligations must be implemented fully, including Security Council sanctions, a political solution must be actively sought at the same time, he continued.  However, unilateral sanctions undermined the Council and should be abandoned.  Stressing that the current situation was not caused by one party alone, he said responsibility for resolving it should also not be placed on one party alone.  The United States had committed to not seeking regime change or reunification of the Peninsula, and China looked to that country to stand by those commitments through concrete actions, he said, affirming that dialogue and negotiations were the means by which to resolve the issue, and that a military solution was not an option.

China had implemented the Council sanctions comprehensively, paying a higher price than any other States for such compliance, he said, emphasizing that no one should cast doubt on his country’s actions.  With the Russian Federation, China had proposed a roadmap to peaceful settlement through complementary measures by all parties, including the ending of large‑scale military exercises.  Pointing out that the Korean Peninsula remained in the shadow of the cold war, he said the parties concerned must reject the thinking of that era in all its forms in order to realize denuclearization and long‑term peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.  China would remain engaged towards the realization of the goal, he said.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), describing the Pyongyang regime as an existential threat to other countries in the region, said that its accumulation of illicit actions had all the hallmarks of a dangerous escalation, emphasizing that one must be clear‑sighted in the face of that situation.  The regime had not demonstrated any intention to reverse course and had flouted its international obligations to the detriment of its own population, he noted.  At stake was the need to prevent the threat to overturn the strategic balance in Asia by strictly implementing the existing sanctions, among other means.  Determined action was required to preserve the non‑proliferation regime in the face of Pyongyang’s provocations, he said, urging the strengthening of sanctions, among other measures, while underlining the importance of diplomacy.  The door to dialogue had never been closed and all measures were intended to get Pyongyang back to negotiations, he said, emphasizing that that could only be achieved through maximum pressure.  While France favoured the resumption of talks, it was up to Pyongyang to indicate that it was open to negotiations, he said, calling upon the Council to demonstrate firmness as the best chance to open the path to dialogue for a political solution.

TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said there was no greater threat to global peace and security than the potential of a nuclear catastrophe on the Korean Peninsula.  Every possible diplomatic effort must be made to avert such an outcome, which could have devastating consequences for the region and the world at large.  While the issue was unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, it was important that all sides begin taking small steps to build the trust needed for the resumption of dialogue and negotiations, he said.  Welcoming the Under‑Secretary‑General’s recent mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he noted that, although nothing concrete had come of the visit, it had nonetheless contributed to a better understanding of the thinking in Pyongyang.  Underscoring the importance of full and effective implementation of relevant Council resolutions by all Member States, he also called for greater attention to the unintended humanitarian consequences of sanctions on the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said there could be no doubt that there was now a “most dramatic situation” characterized by confrontations through military exercises and rhetoric.  Any taunt could lead to irreversible consequences, he warned.  He expressed support for the Council sanctions that his country was implementing.  While the Russian Federation called upon the authorities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to return to the non‑proliferation regime, Pyongyang would not refrain from its weapons programmes as long as it felt insecure due to the military exercises in the region, he emphasized.  It was also not possible to resolve the nuclear weapons testing issue through sanctions alone, he said, noting that unilateral restrictions worsened the living conditions of citizens.  He stressed that the Democratic People’s republic of Korea labourers in his country were not working under slave conditions but under an agreement that ensured protection of their rights.  Denuclearization would only be possible by increasing pressure, he said.  The United States had responded to two‑and‑a‑half months of silence from Pyongyang with unilateral sanctions and increased military manoeuvres, he said, calling on the parties to de‑escalate the situation by the Republic of Korea and the United States refraining from their latest military exercises, and by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ending its nuclear tests.

Turning to the statement by Ukraine’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, he advised that the Minister might actually want to keep to the item on the agenda.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said Pyongyang’s reckless missile launches and nuclear tests constituted grave violations of Council resolutions, and only strict and thorough adherence could ease the sanctions regime.  Recommending that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea capitalize on its recent contact with the United Nations Secretariat to expand the window of opportunity for diplomacy, he said the situation on the Korean Peninsula was the most dangerous it had ever been, underlining that the nuclear path did not provide any guarantees for the security and well‑being of the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

ELBIO OSCAR ROSSELLI FRIERI (Uruguay) said the situation posed a great threat to international peace and security, and called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abandon its nuclear programme in a verifiable manner.  It should stop launching ballistic missiles and return to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  The sanctions had been intended to bring the country back to negotiations, but the regime had kept the door closed, he said, adding that it was indispensable to de‑escalate the situation.  Although all Member States must implement the sanctions in full, the measures should not adversely affect the humanitarian situation, he cautioned, urging analysis of the sanctions.  There was no military solution to the situation, and the solution must be peaceful, based on negotiations that would lead to a political agreement.  He expressed appreciation for the Under‑Secretary‑General’s visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and expressed hope that channels of communication between the United Nations and the Government would be kept open.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) condemned the defiance that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had shown the international community.  It methodically continued its weapons programme and had shown its determination to acquire military nuclear capacity, which was a grave threat to the non‑proliferation regime, to populations in the region, but also to air traffic.  Despite all resolutions and sanctions, Pyongyang challenged the Council’s competency to examine the issue, he said, calling for a holistic and peaceful solution reached through open dialogue.  Senegal encouraged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to return to the six‑party negotiations and to respect its international commitments, he said, adding that Member States should redouble their efforts to meet their commitments under Council resolutions.  The lack of political will, and of capacity, on the part of Member States could only facilitate the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, he warned.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy), stressing the immediate and global scope of the threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, extended solidarity to the peoples of the Republic of Korea and Japan, as well as to that country’s own citizens suffering under the regime’s military priorities.  Strongly condemning Pyongyang’s weapons activities, he called upon it to abide by its obligations and abandon its chemical weapons programmes as well.  Noting the strong measures imposed by the Council, the European Union and others, he emphasized that they would only have the desired effect if the Member States implemented them comprehensively and the Council maintained its unity.  National capacity must be built for that purpose, he said, underlining the importance of submitting national implementation reports on time.  Sanctions were not meant to have a negative effect on the humanitarian situation, and Italy was addressing that issue by appealing for funding of assistance.  Stronger cooperation between aid agencies and the sanctions committee would be helpful in that context, he added.

PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) said his country promoted cultural dialogue and peace, prohibiting the production of weapons of mass destruction on its national territory.  Bolivia urged replication of the nuclear‑weapons‑free model of the Latin America and Caribbean region in other parts of the world, he said, calling upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to return to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty and abandon its nuclear weapons.  While United Nations measures should be implemented to that end, no unilateral actions should be taken against Pyongyang because they would undermine the Council and be in flagrant violation of international law.  In addition, all parties must end threats to use armed force.  Sanctions should not be an end in themselves, he said, adding that they should instead be a means to bring the targeted party to negotiations, leading to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  Bolivia supported the notion of “suspension for suspension”, whereby the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would suspend its nuclear tests, a step that would be accompanied by the suspension of all other forms of provocation, he said, endorsing the proposal by the Russian Federation and China in that regard.  Welcoming the Under‑Secretary‑General’s visit to Pyongyang, he called for the opening of more channels of communication in pursuit of a just and lasting peace.

Mr. KLIMKIN (Ukraine) took the floor a second time, saying the comments by the Russian Federation’s representative were directly related to the issue at hand — breaking international law.  He pointed to the twisted logic of that country’s call for an end to military exercises near the Korean Peninsula, while it was itself conducting large‑scale exercises in Eastern Europe.  All excuses for rogue behaviour must be disallowed, he stressed.

Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) also took the floor a second time in response, saying that his Ukrainian counterpart’s remarks demonstrated a lack of respect for the Security Council. CHO HYUN, Vice‑Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, recalled that the Council had adopted resolutions 2270 (2016) and 2321 (2016) last December in response to the fourth and fifth nuclear tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and in hopes or changing that country’s behaviour.  A year later, however, the situation had deteriorated further.  In response to Pyongyang’s conduct of another nuclear test and launch of 20 ballistic missiles over the course of 2017, the international community had further strengthened and implemented Council resolutions and made efforts to resume dialogue.  However, Pyongyang had yet to return to the negotiation table for denuclearization talks and was certainly now in the final stages of nuclear weaponization, he emphasized.  “If completed, it will fundamentally alter the security landscape in the region and beyond,” he said, warning that Pyongyang also threatened to shatter the foundations of the international non‑proliferation regime.

Noting that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea wished to be recognized as a nuclear‑weapon State on its own terms, he emphasized that the international community must not be coerced by its continuing provocations, but rather uphold its principles while responding firmly to its reckless behaviour.  At the same time, the doors to dialogue and peace should not be shut.  In that context, the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games should be considered an “Olympics for peace”, he proposed, urging the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to join the Games and seize that opportunity for dialogue.

He went on to stress that the sanctions were neither an end in themselves nor intended to bring down the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Instead, they were meant to bring Pyongyang to the negotiating table.  However, that would also require filling in the gaps identified in terms of implementing the relevant resolutions, he said.  The international community had made progress in restricting oil supplies and many countries had joined efforts to expel individuals on the sanctions list.  However, more action was needed, he emphasized.  The Republic of Korea had been actively cooperating with partners to identify and stop attempts by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to evade sanctions.  Emphasizing that no one should condone those who helped that country’s defiance of the Council, he called for the sharing of best practices in order to close the loopholes.

JA SONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) condemned Japan’s “evil use” of its Council Presidency to convene a ministerial briefing on the issue of non‑proliferation and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The meeting was nothing but a desperate measure plotted by the United States, which was terrified by Pyongyang’s “incredible might”.  If the Council wished to discuss non‑proliferation, it should indict the United States, which was pouring astronomical amounts of money into modernizing its nuclear weapons, as well as Japan, which sought every opportunity to produce such armaments.  Pyongyang’s possession of nuclear weapons was a self‑defence measure intended to protect its sovereignty and right to exist, he emphasized, while characterizing the United States as the “ring leader” of nuclear proliferation.  That country had plans to spend approximately $1 trillion to maintain and modernize its arsenal over the next 30 years, he said.

In that context, he continued, he was disturbed that the Council had failed to maintain its impartiality by ignoring his delegation’s repeated requests to table the issue of aggressive joint military exercises by the United States.  Instead, the Council had adopted 11 sanctions resolutions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, denouncing self‑defence measures as a threat to international peace and security.  That alone proved the Council’s double standard and “paltry prejudice”, he said, reiterating that his country’s nuclear force served as a deterrent.  It was in full compliance with rule 51 of the United Nations Charter, which stipulated a Member State’s right to self‑defence, he added.  In any case, Pyongyang’s possession of nuclear weapons did not violate any international laws or regulations because it had justifiably withdrawn from the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.  At the same time, the country had clearly not infringed upon the interests of other States and its nuclear deterrent safeguarded peace in the region, he said.  No matter what people said, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would march ahead and make great advances as the world’s most powerful nuclear and military State, he vowed.

Mr. TILLERSON, Secretary of State of the United States, took the floor a second time and said that everything stated by the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been heard before.  There was no doubt that the country’s pursuit of the nuclear programme was in violation of international law and threatened international peace and security, he said, emphasizing that the international community would never accept a nuclear Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  That country must be held accountable for its actions, he said, stressing that the notion that nobody was responsible for the tensions on the Korean Peninsula was wrong.  Only one party had developed nuclear weapons and launched missiles, and only one party had been targeted with sanctions, he said, underlining that that party alone was responsible for the tensions.  That party alone could dissipate them.

Mr. KONO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said his country consistently devoted itself to being a respectable, democratic and peace‑loving nation, and would not change in the future.  He said today he had condemned Pyongyang’s acts of provocation in violation of Council resolutions and made clear that the international community would never accept a nuclear Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Japan called upon all Member States to implement Council resolutions fully and exert pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Mr. CHO, Vice‑Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, said the international community had made it clear through multiple Council resolutions that it would not recognize the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a nuclear‑weapon State.  Pyongyang must end its provocations and return to negotiations as the only path to a secure and stable future, he stressed.

For information media. Not an official record.