US and others condemn North Korea’s ‘hypersonic’ launch

As US and other UN members called for strong action, China and Russia have resisted efforts to ratchet up sanctions or condemn Pyongyang's weapons tests

People watch TV at the Seoul Railway Station after North Korea's missile launch. AP
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The US and other UN Security Council members on Monday condemned North Korea’s latest missile launch and called for a region-wide scrapping of nuclear arms, even as the body appeared unlikely to step up sanctions on Pyongyang.

Speaking on behalf of council members Albania, France, Ireland, the US, Japan and Britain, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said the missile launch on January 5 was a “clear violation” of UN resolutions.

“This launch is the latest in a series of ballistic missile launches and shows the DPRK’s determination to expand its unlawful weapons capabilities,” she said, using the formal abbreviation for North Korea.

“These actions increase the risk of miscalculation and escalation and pose a significant threat to regional stability.”

She urged Pyongyang to “refrain from further destabilising actions”, to scrap its mass-casualty weapons, to negotiate with its neighbours and to stop “pursuing new technologies, such as hypersonic gliding warheads”.

The 15-nation Security Council held emergency meetings after a flurry of North Korean weapons tests occurred last September and October, though no resolution nor a joint statement was issued after the talks.

The council can adopt binding resolutions or release statements, but permanent members Russia and China are understood to be resistant to further council action against Pyongyang, which is already under several rounds of UN sanctions.

No outcome was expected from Monday’s meeting.

North Korea’s state media described the launch of a hypersonic missile into the East Sea, marking its first major weapons test this year and the second reported test of a such a weapon by Pyongyang.

Hypersonic missiles are usually defined as highly manoeuvrable weapons that can reach speeds of at least five times the speed of sound and are much harder to detect and intercept.

South Korean military officials have, however, cast doubts on the missile’s capabilities, saying that while it reached hypersonic speeds it did not appear to demonstrate the range and manoeuvrability claimed in state media reports.

Updated: January 10, 2022, 10:08 PM