Despite opposition from China and Russia, the United States stated on May 31 that it would push for new United Nations sanctions on North Korea if the communist regime conducts a nuclear test.
U.S. officials, along with counterparts from South Korea and Japan, have voiced concern regarding a potential nuclear test by the North Korean regime. It would be the country’s first nuclear test in nearly five years and seventh nuclear test overall.
China and Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution on May 26, sponsored by the United States, that would have imposed sanctions on North Korea for a recent uptick in missile testing, including intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the continental United States.
With a 13–2 vote, security council members overwhelmingly voted in support of the resolution, but the two dissenting votes revealed the division regarding North Korea among veto-wielding permanent members.
A total of 10 resolutions have been placed on North Korea since it conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, when the security council permanent members were united in their condemnation. However, thus far, the resolutions have failed to deter the regime’s missile program.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on May 31 that North Korea is “actively preparing to conduct a nuclear test.” If that happens, Washington “absolutely will” try again to impose sanctions on Pyongyang, she said.
“First of all, we need to enforce the sanctions that we have already authority to enforce,” she told reporters. “And we certainly, as we attempted in this last resolution, will push for additional sanctions.”
North Korea didn’t conduct nuclear tests during President Joe Biden’s Asia trip as earlier feared by intelligence officials.
North Korea launched its 17th round of missile tests of 2022 on May 25. The escalation is reportedly part of Kim Jong Un’s efforts to apply pressure on international rivals and obtain relief from current sanctions.
China and Russia have lately been seeking to ease sanctions on the regime, claiming that adding more sanctions would be counterproductive and increase tensions.
When asked by reporters about the May 26 vote, Thomas-Greenfield replied that the U.S. draft resolution had been discussed and considered for nine weeks while North Korea continued to test weapons in violation of Security Council resolutions.
“So, they heard very loudly and clearly that 13 members of the council stand strong in condemning what they are doing and they’re being protected by the Russians and the Chinese veto,” she said. “But now they know that the Russians and the Chinese have not been supported by the members of the council.”
After the vote, France’s Ambassador to the U.N. Nicolas de Rivière said the Chinese and Russia vetoes amounted “to protecting the North Korean regime and giving it a blank check to proliferate even further.”
“France will continue its efforts to ensure that the council is able to act and that it regains the unity it has had on this issue,” he said.
Under a U.N. General Assembly resolution adopted April 26, the 193-member world body will be required for the first time to hold a debate on any issue that sparks a veto in the Security Council within 10 working days. Precedence on the list of speakers is given to the permanent member or members casting the veto.
General Assembly spokesperson Paulina Kubiak said the assembly would hold a meeting on the veto of the North Korea resolution on June 8, but she said she wasn’t in a position to confirm whether China or Russia would participate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.