The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for UN member states to ramp up pressure against North Korea, speaking at an extended debate in the UN Security Council (UNSC) in New York on Friday.
The debate over North Korea’s continued development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs continued for over two hours and involved the reiteration of condemnations against the country, as well as long-standing and contrasting views between major powers on how to solve the crisis.
“For too long the international community has been reactive in addressing North Korea, those days must come to an end. Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson urged the council to move “before North Korea does” and urged member states to take three key actions.
Firstly, he called on all member states to fully implement the existing UNSC resolutions, saying that those that did not do so “discredit” the body.
Secondly, he called for states to suspend or downgrade diplomatic relations with North Korea, citing the country’s reported exploitation of diplomatic activities to earn foreign currency that helps fund its illicit programs.
“In light of North Korea’s recent actions normal relations with the DPRK are simply not acceptable,” Tillerson said.
Thirdly, Tillerson called for the increased economic isolation of North Korea via new sanctions against North Korean entities and individuals supporting its programs as well as tightening existing sanctions.
He added that countries should own up to lapses in their implementation of current sanctions and that the U.S. “will not hesitate” to sanction third countries supporting North Korea’s illicit activities.
On this third point, Tillerson also called for a halt to the use of North Korean labor overseas and reiterated the need for the ban on import of North Korean resources, especially coal, which is already subject to UNSC sanctions.
“This new pressure campaign will be swiftly implemented and painful to North Korean interest,” he said.
The Secretary of State did not, however, rule out dialogue with North Korea, but said that this could only occur if the country began to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.
Conversely, he also did not rule out military action, saying that the U.S. is “committed to defending ourselves and our allies against North Korean aggression.”
While many other countries participated in the debate, the suggested approaches to the crisis by major powers remained at odds.
China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi reiterated his country’s position regarding a nuclear-free North Korea, but said it could only be achieved by diffusing tensions and engaging through dialogue.
“Peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula through dialogue and negotiations represents the only right choice that is practical and viable,” Yi said, also urging for all parties to de-escalate tensions and criticizing the U.S. over its deployment of anti-missile systems in South Korea and the continued joint U.S.-ROK military exercises.
Russia’s representative echoed the criticisms, who also reproached the U.S. for its recent rhetoric regarding the possible use of military options to counter the North Korean threat.
“The combative rhetoric coupled with reckless muscle-flexing has led to a situation where the whole world seriously is now wondering whether there’s going to be a war or not,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said at the debate.
Russia also criticized restrictions against the DPRK that make it difficult for entities and embassies in the country to access funds necessary for their functions. It also decried what it said were “illegitimate” unilateral sanctions and that humanitarian operations were also affected as a result.
A UN Panel of Experts (PoE) report on sanctions implementation published in February, however, said that there was no evidence that UN sanctions were adversely impacting humanitarian operations in the country.
Several other member states spoke at the debate, rejecting North Korea’s recent and ongoing actions, raising humanitarian concerns and calling for the full implementation of existing sanctions.
While South Korea was invited to participate in the debate, the DPRK was not.
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Featured Image: tillerson by William Munoz on 2009-04-27 17:36:56