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Jacob Fromer is NK News's Washington DC correspondent. He previously worked in the U.S. Senate.
The United States is still trying to establish a diplomatic dialogue with North Korea, but further missile tests by Pyongyang “risk closing the door on a better path for the future,” the U.S. ambassador to the UN told a meeting of the Security Council (UNSC) on Wednesday.
That North Korea-focused meeting was chaired by the Americans, which holds the UNSC presidency for the month of December, and saw U.S. ambassador Kelly Craft said that Washington continuing to reach out to Pyongyang in an attempt at dialogue.
North Korea “must reciprocate” the outreach, she said, adding that the North’s latest tests of ballistic missiles “risk closing the door on a better path for the future” for the DPRK.
“Threatened further long-range tests would be even more destabilizing,” she said.
The North’s various weapons tests, she continued, “will not help the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea gain the economic development to which it aspires or integrate it into the international community.”
Wednesday’s emergency meeting of the UNSC was called in response to a string of North Korean weapons testing in recent weeks and growing tensions between the U.S. and the DPRK.
Craft’s comments come amid a months-long diplomatic stalemate between the Trump administration and North Korean leadership.
At issue are questions over sanctions relief and the fate of the North’s nuclear weapons program, as well as the future of Washington purported “hostile policy” towards Pyongyang.
In early October, the two sides sent envoys to meet in Stockholm for a rare face-to-face attempt at negotiations, but the diplomats left without a deal, and lingering tensions and distrust only seem to have grown since then.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s has declared an end of year deadline for diplomacy with the U.S. to produce results, after which he has promised to pursue a “new path” to secure his country’s interests.
With less than three weeks left before that deadline expires, Craft’s remarks suggest that Washington may still hold out hope that it can reach a deal before January 1.
According to a readout, the UN ambassador expressed her hopes that Pyongyang would “find the will to follow the course of dialogue.”
“If not, we and this Security Council must be prepared to act accordingly,” she said.
One expert told NK News that the U.S. stance as expressed at the UNSC meeting on Wednesday is unlikely to change Pyongyang’s mind at this stage.
“For North Korea, ‘economic development’ and integration ‘into the international community’ are not nearly as important as security guarantees for the regime,” Alexandra Bell, the Senior Policy Director at the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation in Washington, said.
“Until the Trump administration is ready to put those on the table, the situation will continue to deteriorate,” she said.
At the end of the meeting, Craft spoke for a second time, and insisted that the U.S. “has not demanded that Pyongyang take unilateral steps” to end its nuclear weapons program.
Instead, she said, it “has done everything possible to build trust.”
Some controversy surrounded the Wednesday meeting before it began, as other countries had reportedly asked the U.S. to focus on North Korea’s human rights situation, but the Americans did not oblige. Tuesday was International Human Rights Day.
Late last week, Craft declined to say whether the North Korea meeting would include a discussion of human rights when asked about it by reporters.
“As the U.S. UN ambassador, as an American, I’m very concerned about human rights all over the world,” Craft said last Friday.
“We have not made a decision on whether or not there’s a December 10th meeting – I hope that that’s okay – and I can promise you that – I can promise you that it is an area that we are all very concerned about.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: U.S. Ambassador to the UN Twitter account