The US, Britain, the UAE and six other nations condemned North Korea in the “strongest terms” on Friday over the firing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) at the weekend, the first test of such a long-distance weapon since 2017.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, read a joint statement from the group, which also included Albania, Brazil, France, Ireland, Japan and Norway, condemning North Korea’s battery of missile tests in recent weeks.
“This IRBM marks the regime’s longest-range test since late 2017,” Ms Thomas-Greenfield told reporters after closed-door Security Council talks in New York.
“It also marks a new and troubling record — the nine ballistic missiles launched in January is the largest number of launches [North Korea] has conducted in a single month in the history of its WMD and ballistic missile programmes.”
The 15-nation council should “speak with one voice in condemning these dangerous and unlawful acts”, she added.
Washington called for emergency Security Council talks after North Korea on Sunday launched what Pyongyang called a Hwasong-12 “ground-to-ground intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile”.
North Korea last month test-launched “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speeds and manoeuvring after lift-off and carried out another weapons test involving a railway-borne missile system.
The flurry of launches prompted US condemnation and a push for new UN sanctions.
China is North Korea’s only ally on the council. China and Russia have in the past backed sanctions against Pyongyang to curtail its arms tests, but also argue against more pressure on the country and have even asked for sanctions relief on humanitarian grounds.
The two veto-wielding council members last month delayed a US effort to slap UN sanctions on five North Koreans, who Washington says are connected to Pyongyang’s ballistic missile programme.
Ms Thomas-Greenfield said “the cost of the council’s ongoing silence is too high".
“It will embolden [North Korea] to further defy the international community, to normalise its violations of Security Council resolutions, to further destabilise the region and to continue to threaten international peace and security,” she added.
China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun on Friday told reporters the US should avoid a “vicious circle” of “confrontation, condemnation and sanctions” against North Korea and offer “policies and actions accommodating the concerns” of the hermit nation.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping closed ranks on Friday during talks at the Beijing Winter Olympics, presenting a united front against the West.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un messaged the Chinese leader congratulating him for a “great victory” in hosting the winter sport event and calling for stronger ties between their countries, a state-run news agency reported on Friday.
Pyongyang defends its missile launches as its sovereign right to self-defence and accuses the US of double standards.