UN denounces North Korea for test-firing ballistic missile

Security Council gives no indications of any action it might take against weekend tests

North Korean TV shows the launch of missile, after the country said it successfully tested a new nuclear-capable missile on the previous day. Video: Reuters

 

The UN Security Council denounced North Korea’s weekend missile launch, urging members to “redouble efforts” to enforce sanctions against the reclusive state, but gave no indications of any action it might take.

Pyongyang’s test of the intermediate-range ballistic missile on Sunday was its first direct challenge to the international community since US president Donald Trump took office on January 20th.

At a news conference on Monday, Mr Trump said: “Obviously North Korea is a big, big problem and we will deal with that very strongly.”

Mr Trump did not speak of any planned response but Washington’s UN ambassador Nikki Haley said in a statement: “It is time to hold North Korea accountable - not with our words, but with our actions.”

She issued the statement after an emergency security council meeting on Monday that was called by the United States, Japan and South Korea to discuss North Korea’s missile launch.

US, Japanese and South Korean military officials held a teleconference on Monday in which they condemned the launch as “a clear violation” of multiple security council resolutions. The United States “reaffirmed its ironclad security commitments” to South Korea and Japan, the Pentagon said.

This photo taken on February 12th shows the launch of a surface-to-surface medium long-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2 at an undisclosed location. Photograph: STR/Getty Images
This photo taken on February 12th shows the launch of a surface-to-surface medium long-range ballistic missile Pukguksong-2 at an undisclosed location. Photograph: STR/Getty Images

A South Korean official said the United States has planned to deploy “strategic assets” in upcoming annual military exercises with South Korea because of the increased threat from the North. The exercises usually start in March.

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The official did not say what assets might be used. In the past, these have included B-2 bombers, F-22 stealth fighter jets and nuclear-powered submarines.

In Beijing, China’s foreign ministry said it hoped that under present circumstance all countries could maintain restraint and not do anything to escalate the situation.

“We urge all sides to adopt a responsible attitude and make their own efforts to jointly promote the appropriate resolution of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a daily news briefing.

China is North Korea’s main ally and trading partner but is irritated by its repeated aggressive actions, although it rejects suggestions from the United States and others that it could be doing more to rein in its neighbour.

ICBM test

South Korea’s intelligence agency estimates the solid-fuel missile launched by North Korea on Sunday has a range of more than 2,000km (1,240 miles), according to a lawmaker briefed by the agency. That would bring large parts of China, Taiwan, Japan and Russia within range.

People in Seoul, South Korea watch a TV news programme showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Photograph: Ahn Young-joon/AP
People in Seoul, South Korea watch a TV news programme showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Photograph: Ahn Young-joon/AP

The North has tested missiles with a range of over 3,000 km (2,000 miles) in the past, but has said it is on the verge of testing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which could eventually threaten the continental United States, which is about 9,000 km (5,500 miles) from North Korea.

“We are keeping an eye out, thinking data and technology from the latest test can be applied (to an ICBM),” South Korean defence minister Han Min-koo told lawmakers on Tuesday.

He added it was his belief that the new administration in the United States was still formulating a North Korea policy.

North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-1953 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. North Korea regularly threatens to destroy South Korea and its main ally, the United States.

The security council did not specify what steps might be taken beyond the UN-sponsored sanctions regime imposed on North Korea since 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

Reuters