UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - The UN Security Council on Wednesday (March 8) met behind closed doors to discuss the next steps to address North Korea's missile launches as a proposal from China to freeze Pyongyang's military programme appeared to fall flat.
China, Pyongyang's main ally, called on North Korea to suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for the US and South Korea halting joint military exercises in South Korea.
Asked about the Chinese proposal, Britain, France and Japan said the onus was on North Korea to show that it was ready to change course and abandon its military and nuclear programmes.
"They launched four missiles," said Japan's Ambassador Koro Bessho ahead of the meeting. "We are not doing anything to provoke them and so we are in a very strong position to tell them that this is totally not acceptable."
North Korea fired at least four missiles towards Japan on Monday, three of which splashed down in waters near Japan, saying they were tests for a possible strike on US bases on Japan.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the US-South Korea drills were "not a threat to international peace and security," adding that the threat comes from North Korea's "continued plan to nuclearise".
"It's up to North Korea to show sincerely and with concrete steps that it is ready to start again the dialogue," said French Ambassador Francois Delattre.
The council on Tuesday strongly condemned North Korea's latest series of ballistic missile launches in a statement unanimously adopted despite tensions with China over Washington's deployment of an advanced missile defence system in South Korea.
"The most important thing of course is to reduce tension and also to get on the track of dialogue to seek progress in denuclearization and also commitment to peace and security on the Korean peninsula," Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi told reporters.
"That is the most important thing that we must do at the moment."
China, a permanent council member along with the United States, has argued that deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system would further destabilise the Korean peninsula.
Japan's ambassador said the Security Council should discuss further action to build pressure on Pyongyang.
France said it was discussing plans to impose new measures on North Korea within the European Union in a bid to close loopholes in UN sanctions resolutions.
The council has imposed six sets of sanctions on North Korea - two of which were adopted last year to significantly ramp up measures and deny Kim Jong-Un's regime hard currency revenue.