Strongly condemning the recent underground nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Security Council, during an emergency meeting today, discussed options that would promptly de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that, as tensions rose, so did the risk of misunderstanding, miscalculation and escalation. Stressing that the latest serious developments required a comprehensive response to break the cycle of provocations from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said such an action must include wise and bold diplomacy to be effective. As the Council considered its reaction, he emphasized that the Secretary-General reiterated the importance of responding to humanitarian imperatives regardless of the political situation.
Many Council members expressed alarm, calling for adopting fresh sanctions to economically choke the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear programme. “Enough is enough,” said the representative of the United States, stressing that the stakes could not be higher, especially since 24 years of sanctions and half-measures were not enough, and announcing that her delegation would soon table a draft resolution on the matter. “We must now adopt the strongest possible measures.”
Echoing that theme, Senegal’s delegate said the credibility of the Council was being put to the test, considering the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea routinely violating resolutions by the illegal testing of nuclear weapons. The Council must speak with one voice, he said.
“Time is ticking,” France’s delegate said, calling for new, more robust sanctions, including measures adopted by the European Union.
Supporting that view, the representative of the Republic of Korea said the Council must respond with the adoption of a new resolution containing tougher actions. That must include additional measures to further block funds that could possibly flow into the country’s illegal weapons-of-mass-destruction programme, corresponding to the magnitude and gravity of the most recent test and to compel Pyongyang to seriously engage in dialogue.
Several Council members emphasized the need to resolve tensions through diplomatic channels. China’s representative highlighted a proposal that had been made by his country and the Russian Federation to establish a peace mechanism that required Pyongyang to suspend its nuclear programme, and the Republic of Korea and the United States to halt its military exercises.
Many speakers agreed that sanctions alone would not solve the problem. Sweden’s delegate stressed that negotiations must prevail to resolve the current tensions. Others emphasized that no military solution had addressed the ongoing tensions and diplomatic measures were needed.
Also delivering statements were representatives of Japan, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Italy, Bolivia, Russian Federation, Uruguay, Kazakhstan, Egypt and Ethiopia.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 11:30 a.m.
JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that data from the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization showed that the recent nuclear bomb testing conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had had an estimated yield of between 50 and 100 kilotons, more than five times more powerful than the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima in 1945. Today marked the second emergency Council meeting on non-proliferation and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in one week and the tenth time it had met to discuss that country in 2017.
“We are alarmed by this dangerous provocation,” he said, noting the Secretary-General’s condemnation of the underground nuclear test. “This act is yet another serious breach of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s international obligations and undermines international non-proliferation and disarmament efforts.”
The test was also profoundly destabilizing for regional and international security, he said, emphasizing that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was the only country that continued to break the norm against nuclear test explosions. The Secretary-General reiterated his call on Pyongyang’s leadership to cease such acts and to comply fully with its international obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions.
As tensions rose, so did the risk of misunderstanding, miscalculation and escalation, he said, stressing that the latest serious developments required a comprehensive response in order to break the cycle of provocations from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Such a response must include wise and bold diplomacy to be effective.
As the Council considered its reaction, he said, the Secretary-General reiterated the importance of responding to humanitarian imperatives regardless of the political situation. “The people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rely on the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need,” he said. “We will continue to follow the developments and remain in close coordination with the concerned international organizations, members of the Council and other Governments concerned.”
NIKKI HALEY (United States), underlining the importance of recounting history, recalled that, since the 1990s, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had repeatedly failed to comply with testing obligations and the Council had responded with sanctions, including in 2017. Despite efforts of the past 24 years, Pyongyang’s nuclear missile programme was more now dangerous than ever before.
“Enough is enough,” she said. “We must now adopt the strongest possible measures.” The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea wanted to be recognized as a nuclear power, but Kim Jong-un showed that he was “begging for war”. While war was something the United States never wanted, she said, “we will defend our territory”. The stakes could not be higher, she said, emphasizing that 24 years of sanctions and half-measures were not enough.
KORO BESSHO (Japan) said it was clear how belligerent and dangerous the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s actions were, posing a problem, not only for that country’s neighbours, but the entire international community. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was the only country to have conducted nuclear tests in the twenty-first century, including its fifth nuclear test exactly a year ago, which had drawn condemnation from Council members, in the strongest terms. Nevertheless, Pyongyang continued to pour precious resources into enhancing its nuclear capabilities. Thus, the sixth nuclear test had exhibited a magnitude of explosion far greater than the previous one and had raised the threat to an unprecedented level. In that context, Japan stressed the need for the Council to swiftly adopt a new resolution with further robust sanction measures.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had just crossed a significant threshold, propelling the situation, over the course of several months, into a global, existential threat and an ubiquitous danger. Weakness was not an option, he said, calling for an expeditious, united response by the Council, including additional sanctions, alongside measures adopted by the European Union. “Time is ticking,” he said, stressing that Pyongyang would not hesitate to breach even the most basic non-proliferation rules. While the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had not expressed any willingness to negotiate on its nuclear and ballistic missiles, it must, without delay, surrender its nuclear facilities and return to the negotiating table. For its part, the Council must adopt fresh sanctions.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was the only country in the twenty-first century to conduct such tests, including the 3 September explosion. As such, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea posed a serious threat to international peace and security and, despite sanctions, continued to put its nuclear programme ahead of international law. Economic sanctions were already making it harder for Pyongyang to fund its nuclear programme. Turning to humanitarian concerns, he said the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were suffering. While the Council must condemn the recent test and support efforts geared towards dialogue, encouraging such negotiations without Pyongyang’s commitment would be an effort in futility. A united front must support further action, including increasing the pace of implementing existing measures and adopting new resolutions.
LIU JIEYI (China), firmly supporting the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, strongly urged Pyongyang to comply with international measures. The situation on the Peninsula had deteriorated, he said, stressing that China would never allow chaos or war to erupt. Instead, China and the Russian Federation had proposed to establish a peace mechanism that, among other things, required Pyongyang to suspend its nuclear programme, and the Republic of Korea and the United States to halt its military exercises. Through such an approach, actions could then be taken to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) said that, given that Pyongyang’s policy had ignored international law and repeated calls to halt its illegal activities, the Council should use every instrument at its disposal to ensure the full implementation of its resolutions. Underscoring the need for even more robust measures, he said Ukraine remained ready for constructive work with all delegations on the issue to ensure positive changes in the current situation and move closer to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) said that the latest nuclear test represented a grave and reckless provocation in violation of multiple Security Council resolutions. Italy was committed to a firm and cohesive response at the international and European Union levels to pressure Pyongyang to stop its current provocations. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s actions posed a threat to international peace and security and seriously challenged the non-proliferation regime. He expressed his country’s solidarity with the Governments and peoples of the region that were directly affected by the consequences of Pyongyang’s dangerous actions. The latest test posed a new level of threat, and in that context, he called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to completely stop the development of its missile and nuclear programmes in a verifiable and irreversible manner. Further sanctions must be explored, bearing in mind that such measures must remain a tool aimed at a peaceful and long-term solution for the Korean Peninsula and the whole of the region.
IRINA SCHOULGIN-NYONI (Sweden) warned that the potential for mistakes, misunderstandings and miscalculations was high. There was a need for measures to reduce tensions in the region and to consider how the Council could facilitate a comprehensive solution to the situation. The Council must deliver a firm response and remain united in the face of the threat to peace that Pyongyang’s actions constituted. “We are ready to explore new sanctions,” she stressed, adding that such measures must be duly implemented to have the desired effect. All countries had a duty to implement sanctions in line with the relevant Council resolutions, although she noted that the implementation of the measures remained insufficient and highly inconsistent. Sanctions alone would not solve the situation on the Korean Peninsula and there was no military solution to the tense situation.
SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) said his country decried the manufacture of nuclear weapons. He noted that Latin America and the Caribbean had become the first nuclear-weapon-free zone, an example that should be replicated in other parts of the world. He urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to relinquish its nuclear- and ballistic-weapons programme in an irreversible and verifiable way and called upon all parties from stoking the tensions, which would only serve to jeopardize international peace and security. He stressed the need to avoid acts of provocation and unilateral actions that fell short of international law and the United Nations Charter. Cooler heads must prevail and the trading of mutual threats of a military response, which would only result in further destabilization, must cease. There could be no military solution to the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
VASSILY NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) pointed to the recent provocative activity by Pyongyang, warning that such actions had recently gained dangerous momentum. There was no doubt that the world was witnessing one of the gravest and most serious developments to have taken place on the Korean Peninsula. Peace in the region was in jeopardy and the threat of the conflict morphing into a hot stage loomed greater than before. The disregard of Council resolutions deserved the most vehement condemnation and his delegation regretted that the actions of Pyongyang’s leadership were posing such a grave threat to peace and security on the Peninsula. Pursuit of such a policy was fraught with serious repercussions for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Military solutions could not settle the issue. Given the unfolding situation, there was a need to maintain a cool head and refrain from any action that could further escalate tensions. There must be full compliance by all stakeholders to all Council statements and resolutions. The Russian Federation called upon all parties to immediately return to dialogue and negotiation, which was the sole way to settle the present issue. His country further called for the international community to act in a calm and balanced way, stressing that a comprehensives settlement could be arrived at solely through political and diplomatic means, including by leveraging the mediation offices of the United Nations Secretary-General.
ELBIO ROSSELLI (Uruguay) said his country condemned in the strongest possible terms the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s most recent nuclear test. The world was moving in a different direction when it came to weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons, he said, which meant that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was treading a lonely path. He condemned the obstinate behaviour of Pyongyang, which was the only country to carry out nuclear tests in the twenty-first century. Such tests and ongoing provocation were resulting in the further destabilization of the Korean Peninsula and greater tensions in the region. The Council needed to take immediate action to respond to Pyongyang and ensure that sanctions were implemented by all Member States, while avoiding any negative impacts on the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Diplomacy was the only way to resolve the issue and, in that regard, it was essential that the Council speak with one voice in the quest for a peaceful solution.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said mutually accepted measures must be taken to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, as a military approach had never led to any sustainable solution of the problem. Possessing nuclear weapons was not an assurance of safety and not a viable security strategy. Instead, a new, bold diplomatic action was required, he said, calling on Pyongyang to consider a non-nuclear future for itself and the Peninsula.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), expressing a strong commitment to dealing swiftly with any threat to the nuclear non-proliferation regime, called upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cease its violations of Council resolutions and to refrain from any further provocations. In response, the Council must assume its responsibility in a unified manner, he said, calling on all stakeholders to work towards a solution to establish a lasting peace between the two Koreas, to break the ongoing vicious cycle of breaching Council resolutions and leading to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal) said the credibility of the Security Council was being put to the test. Despite numerous sanctions, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had taken illegal nuclear-testing actions that were now jeopardizing the Council’s credibility. The 15-nation body must speak with one voice to condemn such recent actions and to implement its resolutions. There was no military solution, he said, calling on Pyongyang to end its nuclear military programme and return to the negotiating table.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia), Council President for September, spoke in his national capacity, saying that the latest nuclear test had potentially catastrophic consequences. The test had followed the Council’s issuance of a presidential statement condemning such tests and asking the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to surrender its nuclear facilities. “We might be on the edge of a cliff,” he said, underlining the current dangerous phase of the problem and emphasizing the need for the Council to take appropriate action through a unified voice.
CHO TAE-YUL (Republic of Korea) said that, yet again, Pyongyang had chosen a dangerous path in defiance of the stern warning of the international community. The nuclear test it had conducted on 3 September had proven to be its most powerful thus far. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s such “do-or-die” behaviour had invited a harsh and scathing reaction from the international community, which was evidence that the country’s recent nuclear test was an immense challenge that threatened not only the peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in North-East Asia, but for the entire world. The Council must respond to that serious provocation with the adoption of a new resolution containing tougher measures corresponding to the magnitude and gravity of the test. Now was the time to take measures that were strong and robust enough to compel the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to seriously engage in dialogue. The new resolution must include not only additional measures to further block funds that could possibly flow into the country’s illegal weapons-of-mass-destruction programme, but also truly biting and robust measures, such as cutting off crude oil and oil-product supplies. He called upon Pyongyang to stop pursuing a path of self-destruction and make a strategic decision, without further delay, to choose the path of denuclearization, which was the only option and right way to ensure its survival.
Taking the floor for a second time, Ms. HALEY (United States) said that, due to the urgency of the situation, the Council must move quickly. In that context, the United States would be circulating a resolution the coming week, with the aim of having a vote on 11 September.