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SC/14887
11 May 2022
9030th Meeting (PM)

Uptick in Ballistic Missile Launches on Korean Peninsula, Notices of Pre-emptive Nuclear Strike 'Deeply Concerning’, Top Official Tells Security Council

Japan, France Support Stricter Sanctions on Pyongyang, as Russian Federation Warns of Unacceptable Humanitarian Consequences

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has intensified the pace of its launches using ballistic missile technology, having fired more missiles in the past five months than in the prior two years combined, 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 Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, reported that the country launched a missile using ballistic missile technology on 4 May, a ballistic missile of possible intercontinental range from the same location on 24 March, and another missile on 7 May, possibly from a submarine.  No public information on either launch or airspace or maritime safety notifications were issued.

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s continued development of missiles using ballistic missile technology, he said, underscoring that such actions are clear violations of relevant Council resolutions and increase tensions in the region and beyond.  Moreover, the leader of that country said on 25 April and again on 30 April that Pyongyang could pre-emptively use its nuclear weapons.  “Statements of this nature are deeply concerning,” he warned, pointing to indications of resumed construction activities at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, which was declared closed in 2018.

Member States must strengthen efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons, given the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s continued development of missiles using ballistic missile technology, instead of ceasing such activities.  “The unity of the Security Council in this matter is essential to ease tensions, overcome the diplomatic impasse and avoid a negative action-reaction cycle,” he said. 

Affirming that the Secretary-General is committed to working with all parties for the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, he urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to comply with the Council’s decisions and reset the course to dialogue.  Given the critical humanitarian needs of its people, the country must also allow entry of international staff, including the United Nations Resident Coordinator, as well as aid supplies.

In the discussion that followed, delegates expressed alarm at the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ongoing nuclear and missile programmes and the grave consequences they pose for international security, with many urging swift and unified action by the Council, including an updating of the sanctions regime.

The representative of the United States said the Council has largely stayed silent due to two members who have argued that restraint would help bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table.  “Clearly, silence and restraint have not worked,” she said, asking those countries that regularly engage with Pyongyang to urge the latter to cooperate, while affirming her country’s commitment to a diplomatic solution.  Noting the required upkeep of the sanctions regime imposed against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, she urged members to support the new Chapter VII resolution her Government is negotiating.

China’s representative pointed out that although the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States had met to advance the denuclearization process, the United States later reneged its position and did not reciprocate the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s positive initiatives.  Stressing that sanctions are not constructive, he said the new draft resolution proposed by the United States is not the appropriate way to address the current situation.

The speaker for France said the easing of sanctions, as some have called for, would make no sense in the current context.  On the contrary, the Council must implement the sanctions regime more strictly and update it, including in new fields, such as cyberspace, which is currently enabling the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to finance its programmes.  He urged that country to begin a process for the full verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic-missile programmes.

The representative of the Russian Federation noted with regret that the Council has not responded to Pyongyang’s adherence to relevant resolutions, and instead has only tightened sanctions, threatening the citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with unacceptable humanitarian consequences.  Cautioning against the so-called “stand-alone secondary sanctions” imposed by the United States against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other States, she noted that the Russian Federation’s draft humanitarian resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea remains on the table.

Several delegates highlighted the dire humanitarian situation in the country, with Kenya’s representative urging the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to prioritize the needs of its people over militarization.

The representative of the Republic of Korea urged the Council and the rest of the international community to send a clear warning that a nuclear test will be met with a very firm response, calling on Pyongyang to respond to his Government’s efforts at building sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The speaker for Japan stressed that the international community must not allow the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear and missile development to become a “new normal”, highlighting the grave threat to the security of his country and beyond.  Expressing support for a new sanctions resolution, he called on the Council to fulfil its responsibility in realizing the dismantlement of the weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner in line with relevant resolutions.

Also speaking were representatives of Albania, Ireland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Mexico, Brazil, India, Ghana, Gabon and Norway.

The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 4:28 p.m.

Briefing

MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI, Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, reported that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has intensified the pace of its launches using ballistic missile technology, noting that it has launched more missiles in the past five months than in the prior two years combined.  On 4 May, the country launched a missile using ballistic missile technology which covered a range of 470 km and reached an apogee of 780 km.  It also launched a ballistic missile of possible intercontinental range from the same location on 24 March, and another missile on 7 May, possibly from a submarine, which reportedly covered a range of 600 km and reached an apogee of 60 km. The country did not issue public information on either launch, nor did it issue airspace or maritime safety notifications.  The Secretary-General strongly condemns the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s continued development of missiles using ballistic missile technology, he said, underscoring that such actions are clear violations of relevant Council resolutions and contribute to increasing tensions in the region and beyond.

Turning to other troubling developments since the last briefing on 25 March, he said that on 16 April, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea carried out its first launch of a system it characterized as intended for use in “tactical nuclear operations”.  Its leader also made statements on 25 April and again on 30 April that Pyongyang could pre-emptively use its nuclear weapons, he said, stressing:  “Statements of this nature are deeply concerning”.  Finally, there are indications of resumed construction activities at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, which was declared closed in 2018.

Noting the country’s continuing pursuit of its nuclear programme, which heightens the risk of unintended escalation and miscalculation, he called on Member States to strengthen efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.  “We have consistently conveyed our concerns to the DPRK,” he said, which continues to develop missiles using ballistic missile technology and to defy the repeated demands of the Council to cease such activities.  Reaffirming the Secretary-General’s commitment to working with all parties for sustainable peace and the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, he urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to comply with the Council’s decisions, reset the course to dialogue and build on previous diplomatic efforts.  Stressing the critical humanitarian needs of its people, he called for the entry of international staff, including the United Nations Resident Coordinator, and the unimpeded entry of humanitarian supplies, to allow for a timely, effective response.  “The unity of the Security Council in this matter is essential to ease tensions, overcome the diplomatic impasse and avoid a negative action-reaction cycle,” he concluded.

Statements

FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s reckless and dramatic actions threaten peace and security not only in the region but far beyond.  “The [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] has not abandoned or slowed down its existing nuclear programme,” he said, strongly condemning those actions and calling on Pyongyang to return to the terms of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  Pyongyang now also threatens the use of nuclear weapons, a dangerous course that must be stopped immediately.  The global community, and particularly the Council, “must act now”.  While threatening the world, Pyongyang is at the same time starving its own people into submission and executing large-scale cyberthreats by collecting intelligence, conducting cyberattacks and collecting income, which in turn funds its illegal programmes.  Stressing that the regime has made the choice to violate the Council’s resolutions and continue its provocations, he said speaking out and condemning it is no longer enough.  Indeed, there is a need for strong, concrete and resolute measures, he said, warning members against remaining idle.

CÁIT MORAN (Ireland), condemning Pyongyang’s recent missile launches, said they serve only to raise tensions and threaten the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and the wider region.  Adding that they directly contravene the expressed concerns of the international community and the decisions of the Council, she declared:  “This Council has been silent too long.”  Ongoing work towards a possible resolution is therefore both welcome and necessary, she said, urging members to stand united, strong and determined.  Noting that only a diplomatic and peaceful resolution to the issues on the Korean Peninsula is possible, she said Pyongyang should respond in good faith to offers of dialogue by the United States and the Republic of Korea, without preconditions, and meet its obligations as laid out in Council resolutions.  States must also strengthen their efforts to stem sanctions evasion by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which funds and assists procurement for its illegal programmes, she added.

WOMAN (Kenya) expressed deep concern over the escalating situation in the Korean Peninsula, citing repeated recent violations of Security Council resolutions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  “These incessant provocative actions are driving the region into an arms race […] with grave implications for international peace and security,” she stressed, warning that any miscalculation could plunge the region into unspeakable devastation.  Calling for the halting of any further provocative acts, she urged Pyongyang to recommit to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA safeguards, as well as to the path of dialogue.  She also encouraged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to prioritize the needs of its people over militarization, and called on all other concerned parties to spare a thought for the plight of some 11 million citizens of that country, who remain in dire need.

MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to refrain from any further missile tests, abide by the Council’s resolutions and its relevant obligations under international law, and to return to diplomatic talks.  The Council must do everything it can to prevent further deterioration of the security environment on the Korean Peninsula.  As well, the international community must stress the importance of non-proliferation and maintain robust efforts to ensure all Member States fully comply.  He reaffirmed his country’s readiness to work with Council members and the international community to address humanitarian concerns, calling on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to resume dialogue with relevant stakeholders.  Expressing concern that its people continue to suffer a dire humanitarian situation, he said the country’s limited resources should be directed towards providing for basic needs.  The Government should engage in constructive dialogue with United Nations officials, including the Resident Coordinator, and allow them to return to the country and carry out their essential work.  Sanctions compliance by all Member States and full implementation of Council resolutions remain vital for maintaining international peace and security, he concluded.

FEMALE (United Kingdom) condemned the ballistic missile launches of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on 4 and 7 May, urging Council members to meet those violations with a firm and united response.  Doing so is essential to curtailing the continued development of that country’s prohibited programmes, she said, expressing full support for efforts led by the United States to update sanctions in the context of the evolving threat presented by the actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Voicing concern for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s cyber activity, through which it evades sanctions and raises funds to support its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, she said this includes the recent cryptocurrency theft by cyber actors of $620 million.  The international community should work together to detect and mitigate such activity and hold those committing malicious cyber activity to account.  She called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to allow aid workers into the country to carry out an independent assessment of the humanitarian situation and to allow aid to flow in freely.  The country’s continued channelling of its resources into proscribed weapons programmes is responsible for worsening the dire humanitarian situation, she stressed, calling on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to refrain from further provocations, engage meaningfully in dialogue with the United States and take concrete steps towards denuclearization in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner.

ENRIQUE JAVIER OCHOA MARTÍNEZ (Mexico) voiced his delegation’s deep concern over recent provocations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, condemning those developments and stressing that they undermine multilateral efforts to promote an environment of peace and stability in North-East Asia.  The Council must speak out with one voice against such actions, he stressed, calling on members with influence over the parties to spare no efforts to defuse the situation.  He also reiterated his delegation’s appeal for maximum restraint and called for a return to dialogue as soon as possible, with an eye towards one day achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.

JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), recounting recent developments in the Korean Peninsula, said those included the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s stated threat that it may use nuclear weapons against other nations.  Those remarks only confirmed what was already known.  “This Council’s silence in the face of successive violations of its resolutions is deafening,” he stressed, adding that while all members have individually condemned Pyongyang’s violations, none of those statements matter if the Council cannot speak with a single voice.  In that context, he advocated for strong and unified actions in the face of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s violations, warning:  “Silence in the current situation means irrelevance.”

MADHU SUDAN RAVINDRAN (India) said the missile launches of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea constitute a violation of the resolutions of the Security Council, calling for the full implementation of those resolutions related to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  There is also a pressing need to address the proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies related to that country, he said, noting that those linkages have an adverse impact on peace and security in the region, including on his country.  He expressed support for dialogue as the means to resolve the issues in the Korean Peninsula, as well as for denuclearization towards peace and security in the region.  Noting that the Council has met several times since the beginning of the year to discuss the series of missile launches by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he called for a report of the Panel of Experts on those launches in the context of the Security Council resolutions as soon as possible.

HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) denounced the recent launch — the fifteenth this year — and others before it as blatant violations of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s international obligations.  The international security implications of the launch, particularly for its neighbours, are most grave.  The Council must acknowledge this fact and unite in a call for Pyongyang to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula.  Reiterating the call for parties to resume dialogue to find an enduring solution to issues on the Peninsula in a manner that recognizes regional and global security concerns, as well as those of the parties, he encouraged the United States to sustain its offer for dialogue without preconditions and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to accept that offer in good faith.  He also called on the latter to streamline its internal processes to enable medical and other humanitarian supplies to reach people in need and to allow United Nations humanitarian agencies back into the country.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) condemned the ballistic missile launches carried out by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on 7 May, noting that it is a new and unacceptable violation of the Council’s resolutions.  There is every reason to think that the country could carry out a new nuclear test within weeks or even days, he cautioned, calling on the Council to act and unanimously condemn that new provocation.  Doing nothing would pose a major risk for regional stability and for the non-proliferation architecture.  In addition, the easing of sanctions, as some have called for, would make no sense in the current context.  On the contrary, the Council must implement the sanctions regime more strictly and update it, including in new fields, including in cyberspace, which is currently allowing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to finance its programmes.  He urged the country to begin the process for the full, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic-missile programmes.  He also called for the resumption of dialogue, stressing that all actors in the region must get involved.  On the humanitarian situation, he expressed regret that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues to develop its proliferation programme to the detriment of its own people.

ZHANG JUN (China), expressing support for the improvement of relations between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea, said the issue of the Korean Peninsula should be looked at historically and comprehensively to understand its causes and consequences.  Noting the general de-escalation of the situation on the Peninsula after 2018 with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea taking a series of measures to denuclearize and de-escalate, he said its leaders and those of the United States met face to face to establish a new type of relationship, advancing the denuclearization process.  However, the United States later reneged its position and did not reciprocate the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s positive initiatives, leading to an impasse in the dialogue, adding to mutual distrust between the countries and stalling the process.  The United States is a direct party to the Peninsula issue and holds the key to advancing the dialogue and responding positively to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s reasonable concerns.  Stressing that sanctions are not constructive, he said the new draft resolution proposed by the United States, which is centred further on sanctions, is not the appropriate way to address the current situation.  China’s global security initiative is an important guide to resolving the issue, he said, stressing that the security of one country cannot be based on the insecurity of another.

ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) noted with regret that the Council has not found the strength to respond to Pyongyang’s dismantling of its nuclear test sites, or its adherence to relevant resolutions.  Instead, it has only tightened sanctions, which are the consequence of short-sightedness on the part of some members.  Stressing that sanctions threaten citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with unacceptable humanitarian consequences, she reminded the United States that “negotiations are a two-way street” and warned that creating new military blocks in the region does not help to foster dialogue.  United Nations processes should be used to resolve disagreements and not serve as an obstacle to dialogue.  Even greater resentment is caused by so-called “stand-alone secondary sanctions” imposed by the United States, above and beyond United Nations sanctions, against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other States.  Warning against attempts to sanctify such measures using the Council or the 1718 Committee, she noted that the Russian Federation’s draft humanitarian resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea remains on the table. 

EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon) condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent missile launched and voiced concern about the recent trend of “trivializing” nuclear threats.  Urging parties to defuse tensions and refrain from any speech that might undermine the objective of peaceful coexistence, she urged them to resume diplomatic talks in good faith.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the subject of the world’s most far-reaching sanctions, but those do not seem to be having the intended effect.  As such, she called on all parties to engage in diplomatic negotiations as outlined in 2017.

TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway), strongly condemning the ballistic missile launches by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — including most recently on 4 and 7 May — voiced deep concerned over the growing capabilities demonstrated by the intensive pattern of such launches.  Describing them as a direct threat to regional and international peace and security and a violation of several Council resolutions, she said the organ has a responsibility to consider appropriate actions.  “We are profoundly discouraged to see that the Government [of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] continues to channel its resources to weapons development, instead of housing, food and vaccines much needed by its own people,” she added, calling on it to end its self-imposed blockade.  She recalled that, in 2017, a united Council “expressed its determination to take further significant measures in the event of a further [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] nuclear test or launch”.  In light of its continued violations, she welcomed the United States proposal for a new resolution.

LINDA-THOMAS GREENFIELD (United States), Council President for May, spoke in her national capacity, condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s 17 recent ballistic missile launches and stressing that they pose a threat to international peace and security.  “This Council should not stand for it,” she said.  However, it has largely stayed silent because two members have argued that restraint would help bring Pyongyang back to the negotiating table.  “Clearly, silence and restraint have not worked,” she said.  On 25 April, the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-Un, called for the rapid development of his country’s nuclear forces, proving that the country is not responding to the Council’s silence with good will.  Instead, it clearly interprets silence as permission to not continue on its stated trajectory. 

Calling for urgent action, she said the United States remains committed to a diplomatic solution and has asked those countries that regularly engage with Pyongyang to urge the latter to cooperate.  The sanctions regime imposed against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been effective, but every regime requires continued upkeep.  “It is long past time we updated this one,” she said, voicing regret that two Council members have repeatedly blocked such action.  The United States has been negotiating a new Chapter VII resolution and is now nearing the end of that process.  “We need to speak up now with a strong and unified voice in condemnation of the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]’s behaviour,” before it is too late, she said, urging members to support that draft. Responding to the proposal by the Russian Federation and China to draft a resolution easing sanctions in response to what they view as good faith actions by Pyongyang, she said such a move is “really not appropriate at this time” given the latter’s increased provocations.  She also emphasized, in response to several delegates’ statements, that the AUKUS defence agreement between the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia does not violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

CHO HYUN (Republic of Korea) expressed alarm that despite the international community’s repeated calls to cease its provocative action, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has chosen to further destabilize the region.  Condemning the recent ballistic missile launches, which pose a significant threat to the Korean Peninsula, the region, and the international community, he added that these launches once again demonstrate Pyongyang’s complete disregard of international norms.  That regime continues to prioritize its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes at the expense of its own people, who are continuing to suffer from a dire humanitarian situation.  Highlighting recent statements in which Pyongyang threatened to pre-emptively use its nuclear weapons, he urged the Council to respond appropriately.

Stressing the importance of adopting a new resolution that contains robust measures, corresponding to the gravity of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s behaviour, he said the Council’s recent silence has further emboldened that country.  Noting that Pyongyang has also proclaimed that it will continue to take measures for further developing nuclear forces at the fastest possible speed, he stressed that the Council and the rest of the international community must send a clear warning that a nuclear test will be met with a very firm response, including resolute and united measures to be taken by the Council in accordance with its multiple consensus resolutions.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should realize that it will gain nothing from provocations, he said, urging its capital to respond to his Government’s endeavours to build sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula.

ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), expressing concern that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has accelerated its nuclear and missile programmes “as if it were taking advantage of the lack of a strong Council reaction”, added that there are additional worrying signs looming in the nuclear dimension.  Noting that country’s announcement in mid-April that it conducted another round of missile launches, as well as its public statement in late April that it would develop its nuclear forces “at the fastest possible speed”, he said that it also alluded to the possible use of nuclear weapons, not just for deterrence but for other purposes.  The international community must not allow the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear and missile development to become a “new normal”, he stressed.

Highlighting the grave threat to the security of his country and beyond, he noted that such nuclear development increases proliferation risks in every corner of the world.  Calling for swift Council action in the form of a new sanctions resolution, he expressed support for the United States initiative and stressed the need for possible actions in relevant fields including the cyber domain, which has been identified as a key revenue source for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by the Panel of Experts in the 1718 Sanctions Committee.  The Council must fulfil its responsibility to realize the dismantlement of that country’s weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner in accordance with relevant resolutions, he stressed.

For information media. Not an official record.