Secretary-General ‘Very Concerned’ about Latest Missile Tests on Korean Peninsula, Top Official Tells Security Council, Citing ‘New Path’ Threat

SC/14045
11 December 2019
8682nd Meeting (PM)

Secretary-General ‘Very Concerned’ about Latest Missile Tests on Korean Peninsula, Top Official Tells Security Council, Citing ‘New Path’ Threat

France, United Kingdom Support Retaining Sanctions as China, Russian Federation Insist Coercive Measures Can Never Replace Diplomacy

The Secretary-General is very concerned about developments on the Korean Peninsula, including the 28 November firing of two projectiles that marked the thirteenth launch of ballistic missiles by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 2019, a senior Secretariat official told the Security Council today.

Mohamed Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific in the Departments of Political and Peacekeeping Affairs and Peace Operations, said that signs of a rocket-engine test at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground have been reported in the past few days, while State media have announced the testing of various new missile systems.

Recalling that Security Council resolution 2397 (2017), among others, prohibit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from conducting further launches that use ballistic missile technology, he pointed out that Pyongyang has yet to resume working-level talks with the United States.  Inter-Korean contacts have also stalled and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is disregarding some of its other international engagements, he said.

Moreover, Pyongyang has warned of a “new path” unless the United States ends its so-called “hostile policy” and fails to meet a year-end deadline to come up with an agreeable “bold” proposal, he continued, emphasizing that the Secretary‑General is also troubled by the talk of a “new path”.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea leadership should comply fully with relevant Council resolutions, resume working-level talks with the United States and work for peace and stability.

Resuming the dialogue the two countries began in 2018, he said, will require perseverance, political courage and painstaking diplomacy that can reduce tensions which could otherwise set events on an unpredictable trajectory.  Warning that the breakdown in diplomacy will not help Pyongyang’s human rights or humanitarian situation, he said international humanitarian operations remain critical for more than 10 million people, or 40 per cent of the population, underlining that whereas the Council’s sanctions are not intended to restrict food aid, $87 million is still needed to meet the critical humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable 3.8 million people.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates agreed that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must halt ballistic-missile testing and end its nuclear weapons programme.  They also called for the resumption of negotiations between that country and the United States and of the intra-Korean dialogue.

The representative of the United States cautioned that the recent launches of ballistic missiles “risk closing the door on a better path for the future”.  Further tests would be counter-productive to the process upon which President Donald Trump embarked, she said, emphasizing that the Council must be ready to act if the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea does not find the will to follow the dialogue that has begun.

China’s representative described sanctions as a means to an end, not an end in themselves, stressing that they should be adjusted for humanitarian purposes and to create an atmosphere conducive to a political settlement.

France’s representative said the nuclear threat from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea keeps growing, warning that its latest ballistic missile tests are destroying trust in that country’s commitment to negotiations.  “Our response must be robust, clear and unambiguous,” he added, stressing that sanctions do, indeed, have a goal ‑ denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The Russian Federation’s representative, however, underlined that sanctions cannot replace diplomacy.  The path to denuclearization must start with confidence-building measures alongside a step-by-step roadmap for lifting sanctions, he insisted, emphasizing that what is needed now is political will.

Several delegates highlighted human rights and humanitarian aspects, with Germany’s representative saying that Pyongyang suppresses its people’s aspirations through torture and arbitrarily locks up millions in a gulag system.

The Republic of Korea’s representative said his country will keep working with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “under the principle that we will not allow a war on the Korean Peninsula”.  The two countries agreed in 2018 to turn the Peninsula into a land free of nuclear weapons and threats, he recalled.  Peace on the Korean Peninsula is inextricably linked to peace throughout the world, he said, quoting his country’s President Moon Jae-in.

Japan’s representative described the more than 20 ballistic missiles launched by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ‑ in violation of Council resolutions ‑ represent a serious challenge to the entire international community.  He went on to underline Tokyo’s desire to normalize relations with Pyongyang, adding that his country’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is determined to meet Chairman Kim Jong Un without preconditions.

Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, Dominican Republic, Poland, Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire, Peru, Belgium, Kuwait, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea.

The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 4:38 p.m.

Briefing

MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI, Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific in the Departments of Political and Peacekeeping Affairs and Peace Operations, reported troubling recent developments in relation to the nuclear-weapon and ballistic-missile programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The launch of two missiles on 28 November marked the thirteenth time that country has launched ballistic missiles or other projectiles in the course of 2019, he noted.  Signs of a rocket-engine test at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground have been reported in the past few days, while State media have announced the testing of various new missile systems, he added.  Recalling that Security Council resolutions, most recently resolution 2397 (2017), prohibit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea from conducting further launches that use ballistic missile technology, among other things, he pointed out that Pyongyang has yet to resume working-level talks with the United States.  Inter-Korean contacts have also stalled and Pyongyang is foregoing some of its other international engagements, he said.  Moreover, it has warned of a “new path” unless the United States ends its so-called “hostile policy” and fails to meet a year-end deadline to come up with an agreeable “bold” proposal, he noted.

The Secretary-General is very concerned about those developments and troubled by talk of a “new path”, he continued, calling upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea leadership to comply fully with relevant Council resolutions, resume working-level talks with the United States and work for peace and stability.  For the parties to resume what they started in 2018 will require perseverance, political courage and painstaking diplomacy that can reduce tensions that could otherwise set events on an unpredictable trajectory, he warned, emphasizing that the Council’s unity is essential for complete and verifiable denuclearization and for creating the space for diplomatic initiatives to that end.  He went on to stress that the breakdown in diplomacy will not help the country’s human rights or humanitarian situation.  Whereas the Pyongyang Government bears primary responsibility for meeting the basic needs of the population, the United Nations always stresses the need to provide humanitarian assistance when those needs are not being met, he said.  International humanitarian operations remain critical for more than 10 million people, or 40 per cent of the population, he reported.  Emphasizing that sanctions imposed by the Council are not intended to restrict food aid, he said that addressing humanitarian needs require an integrated response.  He added, $120 million is required to address the critical humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable 3.8 million people, and a gap of $87 million remains.

Statements

KELLY CRAFT (United States), Council President for December, spoke in her national capacity, emphasizing the need to address the issue in a comprehensive manner.  Noting that the United States has been trying to establish dialogue with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, build trust and take mutual steps towards reducing tensions, she stressed that Pyongyang must reciprocate.  Recent ballistic missile launches “risk closing the door on a better path for the future”, she said, warning that threatened further long-range tests would be even more destabilizing.  Continued testing is counter-productive to the process upon which President Donald Trump embarked and will not help the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea gain the economic development to which it aspires or integrate it into the international community, she underlined, expressing hope that Pyongyang will find the will to follow the course of dialogue.  “If not, we and this Security Council must be prepared to act accordingly.”

ZHANG JUN (China) said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States should be working together to reduce tensions, demonstrate good will, take a phased and synchronized approach and resume dialogue as soon as possible.  Concerning the test carried out on 7 December, he said the details have yet to be established.  Pointing out that Pyongyang’s concerns have not been answered, he emphasized that sanctions are only a means to an end, not an end in themselves, and are supposed to encourage a political settlement.  In that regard, denuclearization must be accompanied by a peace mechanism, he stressed, calling upon the Security Council to support a political solution and to do everything possible to prevent a dramatic reversal of the situation.  China also calls for adjustment of the sanctions for humanitarian reasons and in order to create an atmosphere conducive to political settlement of the issues.  China has been consistent in supporting denuclearization in a political process while playing a diplomatic role in that regard, even while experiencing economic losses due to the sanctions imposed on Pyongyang, he added.  China will work with all parties toward denuclearization and lasting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, he pledged.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said that for many years the Council has been seized of the nuclear threat from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea even as that threat keeps growing.  Recent launches show the country’s goal to develop a nuclear arsenal, which destroys trust in its commitment to negotiate, he noted.  The sites linked to illicit programmes remain active despite Kim Jung Un’s announcement that they would be deactivated.  “Our response must be robust, clear and unambiguous,” he emphasized.  Noting that the regime has methodically evaded sanctions, he stressed that sanctions do have a goal:  denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  It is true that Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is undergoing a humanitarian crisis, but the responsibility falls squarely on the regime’s shoulders, he stressed, noting that the latter is devoting its resources to developing weapons of mass destruction.  However, the door to negotiations remains open, he said, commending efforts by the United States to reach out.  Now the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must commit to a path of denuclearization in order to ensure peace on the Peninsula.

KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) said international peace and security is under threat owing to the unabated development of nuclear and ballistic missile technology by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Today the Council is sending a message to Pyongyang that it is not too late to seize the diplomatic opportunity before it.  The united will of the Council is that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must undertake complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.  Citing a remark by China’s representative, she said this is a quintessential issue for the Council to deal with.  “It is hard to discern what lies behind the provocative and dangerous moves of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” she said, noting that Pyongyang’s recent tests have demonstrated the substantial progress that its weapons programme has made.  She went on to stress that Council sanctions will remain in place until the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea takes concrete steps towards denuclearization.  Further breaches of Council resolutions will only harden the Council’s resolve, she warned.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) pointed out that the Council has been unable to agree on coherent steps vis-à-vis the situation on the Korean Peninsula over the past two years.  From time to time, there have been glimmers of hope, which prompted the Russian Federation and China to try ‑ without success ‑ to initiate a positive reaction from the Council.  Underlining that sanctions cannot replace diplomacy, he said negotiations are a two-way street, demanding how progress can be expected when Pyongyang is told to accept a full list of conditions in return for future benefits.  The path to denuclearizing the entire Korean Peninsula must start with confidence-building measures and a step-by-step roadmap for the lifting of restrictions, he stressed.  So-called secondary sanctions do much harm, he noted, calling upon the United States and others to refrain from imposing unilateral restrictions.  He went on to outline the roadmap proposed by the Russian Federation and China with a view to providing security guarantees for North-East Asia.  Stressing the need for political will, he said the time has come for the Council to adopt a political resolution on the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic), while commending the political and diplomatic progress of 2018 between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States, as well as rapprochement between Pyongyang and Seoul, said they have not led to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  He went on to warn that a single error in the testing of ballistic missile systems would have unimaginable consequences for humankind, emphasizing that authorities must stop testing, refrain from aggressive and provocative rhetoric, and return to denuclearization negotiations.  He went on to underline that the humanitarian situation is aggravated by the diversion of resources to the nuclear and ballistic-missile programmes, reiterating his delegation’s appeal for Council unity as the main factor behind diplomatic initiatives and renewed dialogue.

JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) said that the provocations of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea further aggravate high tensions in its region and around the world.  She called on it to suspend further testing, refrain from further provocations and take concrete steps to denuclearization in a verifiable manner.  Until a solution is achieved, sanctions must be kept in place.  She urged the international community to strengthen efforts to enforce the sanctions, which are there to encourage the country to fulfil its obligations.  If the country continues to follow its present course, the humanitarian situation can only deteriorate.  She called on Pyongyang to return without further delay to negotiations.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), voicing support for dialogue and negotiations, called for the expeditious implementation of the 2018 Pyongyang Joint Declaration and other pronouncements.  “We should not be discouraged if the first round of dialogue did not yield concrete results,” he said, calling on all parties to exercise self‑restraint.  Adding that this is not the time to point fingers, he emphasized that restraint is crucial to create stability in the region, which, in turn, affects trade and economic activities.  Indonesia continues to stand for a world without any nuclear weapons, he said, noting that Jakarta is party to several relevant treaties.

KACOU HOUADJA LÉON ADOM (Côte d’Ivoire) expressed his regret that talks have reached a state of gridlock, while the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues to violate Council resolutions and undermine the peaceful coexistence of countries in the region.  He urged that country to exercise restraint and refrain from actions that could jeopardize future talks.  In addition, he called on all stakeholders to do their part to bring the country to the negotiation table.  Congratulating the United States on its delay of military exercises last month, he called on that country and all others to keep the door open for talks.  Inter-Korean talks are also critical, as is unity in the Security Council on the matter in order to support all processes for rapprochement.  He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the non-proliferation system and its strong desire for a resumption of talks.  The Korean people deserved to be relieved of the threat on the Peninsula, he said.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) condemned in the strongest terms the recent ballistic‑missile launches by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which he said demonstrate that that Government has nothing but disdain for international law and the decisions of this Council.  However, channels of dialogue must remain open, primarily through the one offered by the United States.  The Council must remain united on the goal to denuclearize the Peninsula and remain proactive on the enforcement of sanctions.  Unfortunately, illicit transfers continue and have even increased.  The sanctions regime takes into account the humanitarian situation and must remain in force to move the situation forward, he added.

KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium), expressing grave concern over repeated launches of ballistic missiles by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, condemned them, as well as the threatening rhetoric that has accompanied them.  She urged the Council to maintain its unity to achieve peace on the Peninsula.  For that purpose, sanctions must be implemented in full, and irreversible and verifiable denuclearization must be achieved.  To accomplish that, dialogue must resume as soon as possible.  The situation must also be put in the larger framework of non-proliferation, with the country returning to the Non‑Proliferation Treaty.  Her country is working with partners to mitigate the humanitarian effects of the sanctions, she said, also noting her concerned over the dire human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The Council must continue working for a diplomatic solution in the interest of everyone.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said the direct dialogue initiative undertaken by the United States and others in the region has paid off.  Kuwait endorsed the resulting agreements which have contributed to defusing tensions, he reported, noting that the Council has also played a leading role in issuing resolutions condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s illicit programmes.  The Council must remain united, firm and keen on the full implantation of all such resolutions, as the atmosphere of optimism has since begun to dissipate with that State conducting further ballistic missile tests.  Addressing this issue requires a return to the negotiating table and the resumption of direct discussions.  Moreover, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea must comply fully with its international obligations, dispose of its nuclear weapons and illicit programmes and return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear State. 

XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa), spotlighting the June meeting between leaders of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States, as well as the three Inter-Korean Summits, urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to fulfil its commitment under the Six-Party Talks, pursue a path towards complete denuclearisation, re-join the Non-Proliferation Treaty and cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency.  As well, all Security Council sanctions against that country should be implemented in a balanced manner, including support for the political process in the Korean Peninsula, the implementation of all sectorial sanctions, travel bans, asset freezes and humanitarian exemptions.  Expressing concern about the humanitarian situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he pointed out that operative paragraph 25 of resolution 2937 (2017) empowers the Council to exempt the provision of humanitarian assistance and other economic activities.  He called on the Sanctions Committee to proceed with such approvals without delay.

AMPARO MELE COLIFA (Equatorial Guinea) said that, in the face of increasingly radical rhetoric by the actors directly involved and given the stalemate in contacts, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States must comply with Council resolutions and resume dialogue.  None of the parties to the conflict must renounce dialogue, nor may they deprive the citizens of the Korean peninsula of the dream of ending the constant tension so that one day they might be able to sleep soundly without fear of a North-South war or a nuclear winter.  She added that her country’s capital would be glad to host negotiations between the parties concerned.

CHRISTOPH HEUSGEN (Germany) said the aggressive policies of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea pose one of the greatest threats to international peace and security.  That country systematically evades sanctions, uses cybercrime to fill its coffers and flouted its international obligations by conducting intercontinental ballistic missile tests and six nuclear tests.  He urged the country to stop development of its missile and nuclear programs and comply with Council decisions.  He also expressed shock at how that State denies its population basic civil and political rights, adding that the regime supresses its people’s aspirations through torture and arbitrarily locking up millions in a gulag system.  Spotlighting the abduction of foreign nationals by or on behalf of that State, he called for those people to finally be returned to their families.

Ms. CRAFT (United States) took the floor a second time, saying that any discussion of a new road map towards resolving the non-proliferation issue must take into account United States initiatives for dialogue and the fact that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has continued to test ballistic missiles.  Making clear that her country has not demanded that Pyongyang take unilateral steps to end its programmes, she said that, instead, it has done everything possible to build trust.  However, a negotiating partner must take reciprocal steps, she emphasized, encouraging the Council to consider how it can support progress within the framework of Pyongyang’s agreement made with President Trump in Singapore.

CHO HYUN (Republic of Korea), noting the unprecedented diplomatic activity of the past two years, said it included two summits between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as well as a trilateral meeting at Panmunjom, where the leaders of those countries and the Republic of Korea all agreed to work towards lasting peace and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  Citing the Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September 2018 and the broad agreement reached between the Washington, D.C. and Pyongyang, he said negotiations have been up and down but “as rightly pointed out, a legacy of 70 years of war and hostility” cannot be overcome in a day.  However, Seoul shares the international concern over the recent repeated missile tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said, urging that country to fulfil its obligations under the relevant Council resolutions and to remain meaningfully engaged in dialogue.  Seoul will continue to work with Pyongyang “under the principle that we will not allow a war on the Korean Peninsula”, he emphasized.  The two countries met in Pyongyang in 2018 and agreed to turn the Peninsula into a land free of nuclear weapons and threats, he said, calling for the resumption of dialogue.  President Moon Jae-In proposes transforming the demilitarized zone into an international zone of peace, he added, quoting his words:  “Peace on the Korean Peninsula is inextricably linked to peace around the whole world.”  However, it will not be gained by projecting animosity and mistrust ‑ which could lead to a descending spiral of enmity ‑ but rather, through restraint and courage, he stressed.

ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), recalling that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea launched more than 20 ballistic missiles in 2019, emphasized that, regardless of range, that country’s actions are in violation of relevant Council resolutions.  He went on to stress the paramount importance of dismantling its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.  The series of launches constitutes a serious challenge, not only to Japan, but also to the entire international community, he said, describing the launches as provocations undertaken as the United States calls repeatedly for the resumption of talks.  Japan seeks to normalize relations with Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in accordance with the Pyongyang Declaration, by comprehensively resolving outstanding areas of concern, including abductions as well as nuclear and missile issues, he said, pointing out that Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has publicly stated his determination to meet Chairman Kim Jong Un face to face, without any conditions.

For information media. Not an official record.