The United States called for new sanctions after North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
In 2017, the Security Council unanimously decided to punish the North Koreans more severely if they carried out such a test.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Lina Thomas-Greenfield said before the vote that the Security Council must stand together, calling North Korea’s many missile tests this year a “threat to the entire international community.”
– The Council’s restraint and silence have not eliminated or even reduced the threat. If anything, it has given North Korea more courage, she said after the vote.
The latest North Korean missile test took place shortly after US President Joe Biden returned home after a visit to Japan and South Korea.
Chinese and Russian resistance
The US resolution proposed would have limited the amount of oil North Korea can legally import each year for civilian purposes from four million barrels to three million barrels.
China, North Korea’s main ally, and Russia said they would prefer a non-binding statement to a new resolution.
The United States should not only think about sanctions, but also work to promote a political solution, said China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun.
He added that the sanctions could lead to escalation and humanitarian consequences for North Korea, one of the world’s most closed societies, which is in its first corona outbreak.
Russia has claimed that the United States is ignoring North Korean calls for an end to “hostile activity”. The Biden administration has repeatedly said it is willing to talk to North Korea.
Concern for nuclear testing
British, French and South Korean envoys expressed concern that North Korea may conduct a nuclear test, the first since 2017.
“Using the right of veto protects the North Korean regime and gives it carte blanche to test fire several weapons,” said France’s UN ambassador Nicolas de Riviere.
Norway was among the countries that voted yes.
UN Ambassador Mona Juul said the tests were not only a security threat, but also exacerbated what is already a “terrible economic, humanitarian and human rights situation for the people” in North Korea.
This is the first time that the five veto countries in the Security Council – China, Russia, the United States, France and the United Kingdom – have not agreed on a resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea.
A unanimous council approved sanctions in 2006 after North Korea’s first nuclear test, and since then they have been tightened in hopes of limiting the country’s weapons program and funding.
An anonymous UN ambassador told the AFP news agency that the United States was aware of China and Russia’s opposition, but that the Americans went ahead with the vote in the last days of the country’s presidency of the council because they thought it was worse to do nothing.