The US clashed with China on Wednesday at Security Council talks over Washington's plans to ramp up UN sanctions on North Korea over its missile launches, amid fears that the hermit nation is planning another nuclear detonation.
Washington’s UN envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield said “two members” of the council — understood to mean China and Russia — were blocking US efforts to tighten UN sanctions on Pyongyang, which has carried out more than a dozen illegal weapons tests so far this year.
North Korea's latest test occurred on Saturday when it fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile, its second missile launch in three days.
“If we want the word of the Security Council to mean anything, we cannot stay silent any longer,” said Ms Thomas-Greenfield.
“Every sanctions regime requires continued upkeep and ongoing focus on implementation to be successful. It is long past time we updated this one.”
China’s UN envoy Zhang Jun countered, saying a draft US resolution was “clearly not constructive” and fresh sanctions were “not an appropriate way to address the current situation on the peninsula”.
“Sanctions are but a means to an end and should always serve the overall goal of political settlement,” the envoy said.
The UN meeting came one day after the swearing in of South Korea's hawkish new president Yoon Suk-yeol, who says he wants to get tough on Pyongyang.
In his inaugural address on Tuesday, Mr Yoon urged the North to give up nuclear weapons in return for economic aid.
Kurt Campbell, co-ordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs on the US National Security Council, voiced support for the new president's outreach and said that the US was ready to talk to Pyongyang about rising tension.
“We have a new partner, a new president, in South Korea that is determined, working with the United States, to be very clearly engaged in deterring and sending a strong message of partnership between Seoul and Washington,” said Mr Campbell.
“I think we're prepared for any kind of diplomacy or engagement with North Korea,” he said at the US Institute of Peace, a government-supported think tank.
Mr Yoon's predecessor, Moon Jae-in, pursued a policy of engagement with the Pyongyang, brokering summits between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and then-US president Donald Trump — but the peace process failed to gain traction.
North Korea has been under UN sanctions since 2006 aimed at cutting money for its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile work.
Since January, North Korea 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.
AFP contributed to this report