China and Russia defended their vetoes of a strongly backed U.S. resolution that would have imposed tough new sanctions on North Korea, speaking at a first of its kind General Assembly meeting Wednesday.
The debate was held under new rules requiring the General Assembly to examine any veto wielded in the Security Council by one of its five permanent members.
Close allies China and Russia reiterated their opposition to more sanctions, blaming the United States for rising tensions on the Korean peninsula and insisting that what’s needed now is dialogue between North Korea and the Biden administration.
Nearly 70 countries signed up to speak at the open meeting which General Assembly President Abdalla Shahid hailed as making the U.N. more efficient and accountable. “It is with good reason that it has been coined as `revolutionary’ by several world leaders I have recently met,” he said.
Denmark’s U.N. Ambassador Martin Bille Hermann told the 193-member world body as he started his address on behalf of the Nordic countries: “History is being made today.”
The Security Council is entrusted with ensuring international peace and security, he said, and the use of a veto to prevent the council from discharging its duties “is a matter of great concern.”
The General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution on April 26 requiring a debate on the issue not only gives the country or countries casting a veto to explain their reason but it gives all U.N. member nations “a welcome opportunity to share our views on the matter at hand,” Hermann said.
A united Security Council imposed sanctions after North Korea’s first nuclear test explosion in 2006 and tightened them over the years in a total of 10 resolutions seeking — so far unsuccessfully — to rein in its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and cut off funding.
The 13-2 Security Council vote on May 26 marked a first serious division among its five veto-wielding permanent members — China, Russia, United States, Britain and France — on a North Korea sanctions resolution.
On Sunday, North Korea fired eight short-range missiles in what appeared to be a single-day record for the country’s ballistic launches. It was the reclusive north Asian country’s 18th round of missile tests in 2022 that included its first launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles in nearly five years.
U.S. deputy ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis told the assembly the record number of launches have taken place as North Korea “is finalizing preparations for a potential seventh nuclear test.”
He called the actions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK — the country’s official name — “unprovoked.”
De Laurentis stressed that U.S. President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken “have repeatedly and publicly said that we seek a dialogue with Pyongyang, without preconditions,” and that message has been passed through private channels, including China.
“The United States is more than prepared to discuss easing sanctions to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” he said.
Unfortunately, DeLaurentis said, the DPRK has only responded with “destabilizing launches that threaten not only the region but the world.”
Under the General Assembly resolution that required Wednesday’s meeting, the permanent member or members casting a veto are given precedence on the speakers list.
China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun addressed diplomats first, accusing the United States of ignoring positive steps taken by the DPRK and returning to its “old path” of “chanting empty slogans for dialogue and increasing sanctions against the DPRK.”
This has intensified “the DPRK distrust of the U.S.” and brought talks “to a complete deadlock,” he said.
Zhang blamed “the flip-flop of U.S. policies,” its failure to implement results of the DPRK-U.S. dialogue during the Trump administration, and its disregard for the North’s “reasonable concerns” for tensions on the peninsula today.
“Where the situation goes from here will depend to a large extent on the actions of the U.S.,” he said, “and the key lies in whether the U.S. can face up to the crux of the problem, demonstrate a reasonable attitude, and take meaningful concrete actions.”
Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Anna Evstigneeva said new sanctions against the DPRK “would be a dead end,” stressing that current U.N. sanctions have failed to guarantee security in the region “nor moved us any further toward settling the nuclear missile non-proliferation issues.”
“Anyone who is seriously addressing the North Korean problem has long understood that it’s futile to expect Pyongyang to unconditionally disarm under the threat of a spiral of sanctions,” she said. “The creation of new military blocs in the regions such as the formation of the U.S.-Great Britain and Australia casts serious doubt on the good intentions of these countries,” including in Pyongyang.
North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Kim Song denounced all U.N. sanctions and the proposed U.S. resolution as “illegal,” saying they violate the U.N. Charter and his country’s right to self-defense to prepare for any potential security crisis on the Korean peninsula and in the region.
Modernizing the DPRK’s armaments is essential, he said, to safeguard North Korea’s interests “from direct threat of the United States,” which he insisted has made no move “to abandon its hostile policy.”