Russia and China blocked a U.S.-led proposal for the U.N. Security Council to sanction five North Koreans over the country's recent flurry of missile launches. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 21 (UPI) -- The United Nations Security Council failed to impose a new round of U.S.-led sanctions on North Korean individuals over the regime's latest ballistic missile launches, with Russia and China reportedly blocking the measure in an emergency closed-door meeting.
The meeting was held Thursday at the request of the United States and seven other Security Council member countries including Japan, Britain, France and Ireland, in response to a flurry of four missile tests by North Korea since the beginning of year.
Washington last week imposed unilateral sanctions on several individuals and entities tied to the North's weapons program and was looking to extend U.N.-backed sanctions to five of the designated North Koreans.
However, China had signaled in advance that it had no intention of allowing a discussion on the measure to proceed. Multiple media reports said that Russia joined China in placing a hold on the proposal, which requires a unanimous agreement from the Security Council's 15 members.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said after the session that refusing to impose sanctions on North Korea gives the nuclear-armed state free rein to continue to develop its weapons program.
"We have these sanctions for a reason, and for any member state to oppose putting sanctions on that have been agreed to by the entire Security Council gives, in my view, the DPRK a blank check," Thomas-Greenfield told reporters.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.
The meeting came after North Korea suggested that it may also lift a self-imposed four-year moratorium on nuclear weapon and ICBM tests in response to what leader Kim Jong Un called the "hostile policy" of the United States.
Earlier on Thursday, Thomas-Greenfield delivered a joint statement from eight member countries calling for the Security Council to "proactively support implementation" of existing resolutions that ban North Korea from developing ballistic missiles.
"These launches demonstrate the regime's determination to pursue weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs at all costs, including at the expense of its own people," the statement said.
On Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian indicated that the Security Council "has no plan to discuss the so-called draft resolution concerning sanctions on the DPRK."
"We hope members of the Security Council will view the current situation prudently with a long-term perspective and the big picture in mind," he said.
China's special representative on Korean Peninsula affairs, Liu Xiaoming, also poured cold water on the idea of additional sanctions, tweeting Thursday that Washington "should abandon the belief that sanction is the answer for everything."
Liu said that the United States should "take concrete actions to address the legitimate concerns of the DPRK and eliminate the security threat against the latter."
Negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have been at a standstill since a Feb. 2019 summit failed to produce an agreement over denuclearization and the easing of sanctions.
Thomas-Greenfield revisited the sanctions dispute between Beijing and Washington at an event held by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Thursday after the Security Council meeting.
"[Sanctions are] an area where we have had some disagreement with our Chinese counterparts," she said. "They are still are insisting on giving the DPRK a pass for breaking Security Council resolutions, for not adhering to sanctions and resolutions that the entire Council in unity agreed to," Thomas-Greenfield said.
"We think we have to call [North Korea] out for their aggressions," she added. "We have to hold them accountable."