UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Tuesday (May 16) to discuss a new raft of measures, including sanctions, aimed at piling pressure on North Korea after it fired its latest ballistic missile.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley said the United States was working with China, Pyongyang’s main ally, on a new sanctions resolution and that all UN member-states would step up action against North Korea.
“We all have to send a sign to North Korea, and that is ‘no more. This is not play time. This is serious. These threats are not welcome,’” Haley told reporters ahead of the council meeting.
The US envoy also held out the prospect of direct talks with North Korea if Pyongyang puts an end to missile launches and nuclear tests. “We are willing to talk but not until we see a total stop of the nuclear process and of any test there,” she said.
North Korea on Sunday (May 14) launched what appeared to be its longest-range ballistic missile yet, saying it was capable of carrying a “heavy nuclear warhead” in a test aimed at bringing the US mainland within reach.
The United States, Japan and South Korea called the emergency meeting in response to the missile test and to press international demands that North Korea change course and dismantle its missile and nuclear programmes.
No draft resolution has been circulated to the 15 council members, but the United States is in talks with China on a possible new sanctions resolution that would ratchet up the pressure on Pyongyang.
“That’s what we are working on now. We don’t have it done yet,” Haley said. “Absolutely, sanctions (are) something that we are looking at and we are going to continue to see where that takes us.”
SANCTIONS NOT AN END
Pyongyang has carried out two atomic tests and dozens of missile launches since the beginning of last year in its quest to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the continental United States.
In a unanimous statement backed by China, the council on Monday strongly condemned the missile test and agreed to take further significant measures, including sanctions. Among the possible measures would be an oil embargo, trade bans and targeted sanctions on North Korean individuals and companies, but these hinge on China’s willingness to apply such measures.
“Sanctions are not an end to themselves, that is true, but sanctions are one of the best ways that we have to demonstrate in a united way the determination of the Security Council to press the regime in Pyongyang to change its approach,” British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters.
North Korea was also under scrutiny by investigators looking for the source of a major cyberattack affecting more than 150 countries, but the European police agency said it was still too early to determine who was behind the chaos.
Under UN resolutions, North Korea is barred from developing nuclear and missile technology and the council has repeatedly described Pyongyang’s actions as provocative and a threat to global peace. The Security Council adopted two sanctions resolutions last year to ramp up pressure on Pyongyang and deny leader Kim Jong-Un the hard currency needed to fund his military programmes.
In all, six sets of sanctions have been imposed on North Korea since it first tested an atomic device in 2006. UN sanctions monitors have told the council that North Korea has been successful in evading sanctions, by using front companies in China and in Malaysia along with middlemen in other countries.
In Washington, a US defense official told AFP the missile fired on Sunday appeared to be a liquid-fuelled KN-17, marking what appeared to be the most successful launch of such a device.
“It’s the furthest we’ve seen one fly,” the official said, adding that military experts were assessing the missile’s re-entry capabilities.
But the Pentagon is skeptical whether Pyongyang has mastered the re-entry technology needed to ensure it survives returning into Earth’s atmosphere. Kim has repeatedly stated he wants to develop an ICBM, and this year said Pyongyang is in the “final stages” of doing so.
Sunday’s rocket, which Pyongyang dubbed the Hwasong-12, could prove to be a more reliable alternative to the Musudan and marks a significant milestone as in its development of an ICBM that could ultimately be tipped with a nuclear warhead, experts said.
The launch represented a “significant success,” Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation think tank, told AFP.