US asks for UN Security Council meeting on North Korea

Diplomats request talks on Wednesday after two missile tests in recent days

A report of North Korea's short-range ballistic missile launch on a TV screen at Seoul Station in South Korea. EPA

The UN Security Council is expected to meet this week to discuss North Korea's latest missile launches, amid fears that the hermit nation is ramping up for another nuclear test.

The US holds the council's rotating presidency for the month of May and also requested the meeting, which is set for Wednesday.

It comes as Pyongyang dramatically increased sanctions-busting missile launches, conducting 15 weapons tests since January including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range for the first time since 2017.

North Korea's latest test occurred on Saturday when Pyongyang fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile, its second missile launch in three days.

Since January, the North has carried out 15 weapons tests, including its first full range intercontinental ballistic missile test since 2017.

The US says Pyongyang could be ready to conduct another nuclear weapon test as early as this month.

Washington's UN envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield has pushed for tighter council pressure on Pyongyang, but faces resistance from veto-powers China and Russia.

North Korea has been under UN sanctions since 2006 aimed at cutting money for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile work.

Pyongyang manages to evade some restrictions and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un says he is speeding up his country's weapons programmes.

Experts say the unusually fast pace in testing activity underscores a brinkmanship aimed at forcing the US to accept the idea of North Korea as a nuclear power and remove crippling sanctions.

Mr Kim has punctuated his missile tests with statements warning the North could proactively use its nuclear weapons if threatened or provoked.

Experts say this could portend an escalatory nuclear doctrine that would create greater concerns for neighbours South Korea and Japan.

The UN meeting will take place one day after the swearing in of South Korea's hawkish new president Yoon Suk-yeol, who seeks to get tough on Pyongyang.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: May 09, 2022, 6:44 PM