China and Russia have delayed a US effort against the UN to impose sanctions on five North Koreans in response to recent Pyongyang missile launches, diplomats said.
The movement from Beijing and Moscow came before a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council on North Korea on Thursday – the second in two weeks – after Pyongyang fired tactically controlled missiles this week.
However, China and Russia put “hold” on the US proposal on Thursday, which puts it in limbo.
China told councilors it needed more time to study the sanctions, while Russia said more evidence was needed to support the US request, diplomats said.
Under current UN rules, the blocking period can last for six months. After that, another councilor can extend the block for another three months before the proposal is permanently removed from the negotiating table.
Monday’s test was North Korea’s fourth so far this year, with two previous launches involving “hypersonic missiles” capable of high-speed and maneuvering after firing, and another test on Friday using a pair of short-range missiles fired from train cars.
In a joint statement, seven members of the UN Security Council – the United States, Albania, Brazil, France, Ireland, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom – and Japan on Thursday said the launches “demonstrate the regime’s willingness to pursue weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. , also at the expense of its own people ”.
“It is extremely important that member states take the necessary steps to implement the sanctions in their jurisdictions, or risk giving a blank check to the DPRK regime to advance its weapons program,” the statement said, with an acronym for North Korea.
USA last week imposed unilateral sanctions over the missile launches. It blacklisted five North Koreans, a Russian and a Russian company, and accused them of providing goods for the programs from Russia and China.
It then proposed that five of these persons should also be subject to a UN ban on entry and the freezing of assets. The request was to be approved by consensus of the Security Council’s 15-member Sanctions Committee for North Korea.
The US Treasury Department said on January 12, that one of the North Koreans being sanctioned, Choe Myong Hyon, was based in Russia and had provided support to North Korea’s Second Academy of Sciences (SANS), which is already subject to sanctions.
Also targeted were four China-based North Korean representatives of SANS subordinate organizations, the Treasury Department said: Sim Kwang Sok, Kim Song Hun, Kang Chol Hak and Pyon Kwang Chol.
Nuclear-armed Pyongyang has been banned from testing ballistic weapons by the UN, but nuclear talks have been halted since 2019, when a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then-US President Donald Trump collapsed due to North Korea’s demands for sanctions.
It has the administration of US President Joe Biden searched without success to re-engage Pyongyang in dialogue to persuade it to abandon its nuclear weapons and missiles.
But Kim has rejected new calls with the United States and warned that North Korea would restart weapons development activities that it had previously suspended.
The North Korean leader who took power 10 years ago has tried to modernize the military, saying more advanced weapons are needed for the country’s self-defense.
The powerful Politburo of North Korea’s ruling party, led by leader Kim, said during a meeting Wednesday that it would reconsider resuming “all temporarily suspended” nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests (ICBMs) in light of “hostile” U.S. actions.
The country’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper quoted members of the Politburo as saying it was seeking to “investigate the issue of resuming all actions that had been temporarily suspended”, in an apparent reference to a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapons testing and ICBMs, which began in 2017.
“We should make more thorough preparations for a long-term confrontation with the American imperialists,” the Politburo concluded.
“Facts have repeatedly proven that blindly resorting to sanctions and pressure would only escalate tensions further instead of resolving the peninsula issue. This does not serve the interests of any party,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said when he was asked about Pyongyang’s announcement.
Meanwhile, North Korea is expected to come up during virtual talks on Friday between Biden and Japan’s new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
Daniel Russel, a former U.S. diplomat for Asia who is now with the Asia Society Policy Institute, said the meeting showed that Washington and Tokyo were on the same wavelength.
“We should expect their discussion to focus on practical measures to deter and defend against destabilizing behavior, whether it comes from North Korea or in hot spots like the Taiwan Strait and the South and East China Seas,” he said.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his Japanese counterpart Akiba Takeo set the agenda Thursday as they discussed their respective approaches to North Korea, China and economic issues in the Indo-Pacific, the White House said.