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Russia, China block U.N. response to North Korean missile launches

Russia and China blocked a U.S.-led push at the U.N. Security Council to condemn North Korea's recent missile launches, which included an ICBM test over the weekend. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE
1 of 2 | Russia and China blocked a U.S.-led push at the U.N. Security Council to condemn North Korea's recent missile launches, which included an ICBM test over the weekend. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A U.S.-led call for the U.N. Security Council to take action over North Korea's recent spate of missile launches, which included an ICBM test over the weekend, was impeded by Russia and China.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield delivered a joint statement at an emergency Security Council briefing on Monday, calling for U.N. member states to condemn North Korea's "irresponsible behavior" and to fully implement existing sanctions over the secretive regime's illicit weapons program.

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"It is time the Security Council spoke again with one voice against the DPRK's declared efforts to develop an unlawful nuclear arsenal that would pose a grave danger to the world," the statement said. "Council silence has not led to restraint in Pyongyang. In fact, it has emboldened the DPRK authorities."

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.

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North Korea fired a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile on Saturday, in what Greenfield-Thomas said was the country's ninth ICBM test since the beginning of last year. Japanese officials said the missile landed in the waters of its exclusive economic zone and had the capacity to reach the entire United States.

The joint statement was signed by Albania, Britain, Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, South Korea, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

A presidential statement from the Security Council requires unanimous support from all 15 members. Russia and China, however, blocked any action and shifted the blame for rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula to the heightened military cooperation between Washington and its allies.

China's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dai Bing said at the Security Council briefing that North Korea has "long been facing enormous security pressure, challenges, and threats."

"Since the beginning of this year, the U.S. and its allies have stepped up joint military activities around the Peninsula targeting the DPRK," he said. "Certain countries ... should give up their geopolitical manipulation, stop the clamor about war and refrain from resorting to pressurization at every turn through military exercises."

Russia said that increased military drills and the deployment of U.S. assets such as nuclear submarines and bombers to the Korean Peninsula were causing a "vicious circle."

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"We repeatedly stressed that the U.S. and its allies bear special responsibility for this situation," Russia's First Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said at the briefing. "Attempts to coerce the DPRK to disarm unilaterally with the help of sanctions and forceful pressure as part of so-called extended deterrence concept will not bring the results that Washington has apparently anticipated."

Moscow and Beijing have repeatedly shut down U.S.-led efforts to impose new sanctions on North Korea dating back to May of last year, highlighting a sharpening geopolitical divide that has emerged in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Thomas-Greenfield said in separate remarks on Monday that the Security Council's inaction has enabled Pyongyang to conduct weapons tests "without fear of consequences."

"The reality is that those who shield the DPRK from the consequences of its escalatory missile tests put the Asian region, and entire world, at risk of conflict," she said.

"But this failure is not collective. It is specific. It stems from the two veto-wielding members of this Council who have repeatedly shut down all efforts at a meaningful response," she added, referring to China and Russia.

North Korea followed up its weekend ICBM launch by firing two short-range ballistic missiles on Monday, while the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un warned of turning the Pacific into a "firing range."

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The United States and South Korea are scheduled to hold a tabletop military exercise designed to counter North Korean nuclear threats on Wednesday and will conduct their springtime Freedom Shield joint drill next month.

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