Security Council: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Note: A full summary of this afternoon’s Security Council meeting will be made available upon completion.


KHALED KHIARI, Assistant Secretary-General for Middle East, Asia and the Pacific in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, noted that according to its official news agency, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea launched what it described as a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile on 13 April – designated as Hwasong-18 – the country’s first launch of a long-range solid-fuel ballistic missile. Solid-propellant missiles do not need to undergo fuelling prior to launch, he emphasized – and can thus be launched more quickly than liquid-propellant missiles, making it more difficult to detect the preparation of a launch in a timely manner. He reported that the Secretary-General strongly condemns the launch, reiterating his calls on Pyongyang to immediately desist from any further destabilizing actions, to fully comply with its international obligations under all relevant Security Council resolutions, and to resume dialogue leading to sustainable peace and the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Earlier today, he noted, the Marshal of the Korean People’s Army issued a statement opposing today’s meeting of the Council, while the country continues to implement its five-year military development plan, involving the pursuit of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes. The plan included developing a new solid propellant intercontinental-range ballistic missile – reportedly achieved with the 13 April launch, despite relevant Council resolutions banning “any launch using ballistic missile technology”. That plan also provided for the development of multiple warheads, tactical nuclear weapons, a military reconnaissance satellite, new unmanned aerial systems and a “hypersonic gliding flight warhead”.

He noted that Pyongyang greatly increased its missile launch activities in 2022 and 2023, including more than 80 launches using ballistic missile technology. Most of the systems tested are capable of striking countries in the immediate region, while those tested on 13 April, 16 March and 18 February can reach most points on the Earth. The country did not issue airspace or maritime safety notifications for any of these launches, representing a serious risk to international civil aviation and maritime traffic.

“Diplomacy – not isolation – is the only way forward,” he stressed, noting lack of Council unity and action has left Pyongyang unconstrained, with other parties compelled to focus on military deterrence. He urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to refrain from carrying out further launches using ballistic missile technology or nuclear tests and to resume communication channels, including military to military, as Pyongyang has been unresponsive to daily routine calls via inter-Korean communication lines since 7 April. Reducing confrontational rhetoric will help to lower political tensions and create space to explore diplomatic avenues.

Reiterating that the United Nations is ready to assist Pyongyang in addressing medical and other basic needs of vulnerable populations, he welcomed the return of diplomats from one Member State to the capital on 27 March. The country must allow the unimpeded entry of international staff, including the resident coordinator, and of humanitarian supplies, to enable a timely and effective response. Stressing anew that the unity of the Security Council is essential, as it holds primary responsibility for international peace and security, he noted the Secretariat remains in close contact with all key parties and is ready to seize opportunities whenever the conditions are right to make a difference, with the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, currently on a visit to North-East Asia.


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s intercontinental missile launch without warning, endangering civilians, civil aviation and maritime traffic. Recently, Pyongyang claimed that the new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile promotes the effectiveness of its nuclear counter-attack capability, she said, condemning its aggressive rhetoric. There is zero justification for proliferators and their unlawful ballistic missile programmes, she asserted, noting that it is the Council’s responsibility to send a strong, unified message and do everything in its power to prevent the country from carrying out future unlawful ballistic missile launches. She expressed deep frustration by continued inaction that undermines the credibility of the Council and of the entire international non-proliferation regime. The lawful efforts of the United States to defend against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s repeated escalatory actions do not in any way justify Pyongyang’s unlawful behaviour. Noting that unannounced missile launches pose a threat to international peace and security, she underscored that it is not a bilateral issue but a threat to everyone. Detailing that country’s illicit financial activities, she declared: “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues to choose ammunition over nutrition”.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania), noting that he is “not surprised” that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea seems to have concluded that the Council is toothless, said that country is pushing ahead with dangerous escalatory policies and has tested new types of weapons, bringing their provocations to a higher level. Reiterating the call on Pyongyang to stop such acts, he underscored that the international community must not be reduced to mere spectators in the face of such violations. The defiant transgressions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s regime call for action, he said, stressing that unless checked, its blatant acts could become a template for dangerous behaviour. Neighbouring countries, including Japan and the Republic of Korea, need reassurance that the Council takes such actions seriously. More weapons will not help the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s develop, he said, noting that an insane part of that country’s meagre resources are being used to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) condemned the launch of what the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has called an intercontinental ballistic missile – a first launch of a solid fuel missile representing a significant increase in its ballistic missile capabilities. These missiles could potentially reach most of the globe, and while Pyongyang limited the flight distance this time, its reckless actions nonetheless created concern and fear for the people of Japan, who are directly threatened by these launches. Such violations of Council resolutions are too serious to ignore, she stressed, calling on Member States to set aside their differences and send a unified message that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s behaviour is unacceptable. She urged the Council to implement existing unanimously agreed resolutions in full, and Pyongyang to take up repeated offers from the United States and the Republic of Korea towards dialogue, as diplomacy is the only route to sustained peace on the peninsula.

ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) said that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has conducted repeated missile launches; steadily developed diversified ranges, types and modalities of missiles and other weapons systems, including a self-proclaimed “underwater nuclear attack drone” which is said to generate a radioactive contaminated tsunami; publicly articulated its intention to mass-produce nuclear warheads; and reportedly tested a new type of a solid-fuelled intercontinental ballistic missile. Announcing its “five-year military plan” in January 2021, the country is steadily implementing its long-pursued nuclear and missile programmes. He rejected the notion that the Council should refrain from taking action to avoid provoking the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, noting that the Council’s silence has not slowed that country at all. In fact, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has accelerated its activities, he asserted, highlighting the need to end the “negative action-inaction cycle” between that country and the Council.

VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) said the recent launch confirms the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is continuing to develop and improve its ballistic missile capabilities. Recalling resolution 2397 (2017) that decided additional restrictions would be placed on that country if there were even “a single further launch”, she observed that the Council stands frozen. How many times do resolutions need to be violated before the 15-nation organ takes action, she asked. Civilians across the region are living in fear, with the most recent launch triggering a safety alert for all to seek shelter. She also underscored that those missiles could reach almost every part of the world, voicing her concern about a possible seventh nuclear weapons test. International humanitarian organizations and United Nations staff are still unable to access and assess the medical, humanitarian and food insecurity situation in the country. Yet, in 2019 some 40 per cent of that country’s civilians were in urgent need of humanitarian aid, a number which can only be higher today. That country’s leadership continues to ignore these serious humanitarian needs, prevent humanitarian access, and instead waste its resources on costly illegal ballistic missile launches and weapons programmes. She called for access to the United Nations and other humanitarian actors so that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s population can receive the aid it requires.

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), noting the increasing number of missile launches by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said these warning signs are very real. “We have remained disunited and silent,” he said, condemning the latest launch and calling for action from the Council. This new solid fuel missile demonstrates the continued growth of the country’s nuclear programme, he said, adding that Pyongyang is, in its own words, preparing for a real war. “France will not accept North Korea becoming a nuclear State,” he said, cautioning that doing nothing or being complacent would mean normalizing nuclear proliferation. It would also mean accepting the challenge to the Council’s authority. To prevent an escalation, it is crucial to apply sanctions, he said, also stressing the role of dialogue. Noting the proposals that have been made and calling on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea authorities to seize on those opportunities, he added that the Council must ensure that its decisions are respected.

CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana) stated last Thursday’s test of a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile is yet another disturbing confirmation of the dramatic acceleration of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ballistic missile programme, demonstrating the regime’s resolve to have complementarity and operational readiness for its nuclear weapon delivery systems at strategic and tactical levels. Pyongyang’s intransigence in flouting the Council’s multiple resolutions and breaching its international law obligations, including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, jeopardizes the security of the region and that of the international community – and it is therefore important that the Council finds a common voice to indicate that such actions cannot be countenanced, reconsidering its approaches to dealing with the concern through an honest discussion of how to proceed. Urging all parties to undertake measures to de-escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula, she called on Pyongyang to refrain from further ballistic missile launches and comply with the Council’s existing demands – urging it to redirect efforts towards economic development and the welfare of its people.

ZHANG JUN (China) said tension persists on the Korean Peninsula, with confrontations escalating. It is important to see how a matter got to this point, he said, recognizing its underlying drivers. The Peninsula issue is a legacy of the cold war, he observed, adding that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been faced with tremendous security threats and survival stresses. For decades, its legitimate concerns have been denied the attention they deserve. Recently, the United States has been conducting frequent military exercises in the periphery of the Peninsula, deploying strategic weapons such as nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and B-52 bombers which have deeply heightened the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s sense of security. This is the main trigger for the current tensions on the Peninsula, he asserted. Facing the new round of tensons spiralling on the Korean Peninsula, he called on all parties to exercise restraint, address the root causes, find a political solution and work towards de-nuclearization. A show of good will is vital to building mutual trust and creating the conditions necessary for peace talks. The United States, in particular, should adopt a responsible attitude and take tangible actions. No State should pursue absolute security at the expense of other countries, he underscored, noting that the Council should not become an instrument for imposing sanctions and pressure.

ADRIAN DOMINIK HAURI (Switzerland) said, month after month, Security Council discussions become more similar as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea nuclear programme continues to evolve. However, these meetings and discussions remain crucial; this Council cannot ignore its duty and responsibility. Because these launches are in violation of legally binding Security Council resolutions and international law, the 15-member organ’s collective duty is to condemn the tests. The Council must also ensure that humanitarian assistance remains possible and is not negatively impacted by sanctions. “The unity of the Council that allowed for the adoption of resolution 2664 (2022) is proof of our common objective in this regard,” he said. The heavy restrictions in place in connection with the pandemic are severely hampering international humanitarian assistance and the development of nuclear and military programmes remains possible only at the cost of serious human rights violations and a precarious humanitarian situation. The Council and the United Nations have an important role to play in encouraging dialogue, de-escalation and the search for diplomatic solutions. To find a political solution, the Council must break its silence. The call for dialogue should be based on a united position, he stressed, encouraging all members to seek consensus.

JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) condemned in the strongest terms the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile launch, which violated relevant Council resolutions, put at risk maritime and air safety and endangered neighbouring populations, causing an evacuation order to be issued in Hokkaido, Japan. The 13 April launch represents a dangerous development in Pyongyang’s missile programme and nuclear capabilities, advancing from a liquid-fuelled to a solid-fuelled missile in a mere six years. Six years is meaningful, as that is the time since the last round of Council sanctions – the toughest and broadest round yet – illustrating that sanctions alone have not been and cannot be the solution to this file. A possible tenth round of sanctions, no matter how tough, will not by itself bring the nuclear and missile programmes to a halt. “When we say the Council ‘must do more’ we do not mean ‘more of the same’.” He noted in the last meeting, Brazil and others suggested the Council make better use of its Chapter VI tools to promote engagement, establish processes and recommend measures of adjustment.

EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon), condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s missile launches, expressed concern about the resulting climate of tension. Reiterating the appeal for negotiations, she said this is the only credible way out. Everything must be done to ensure that the parties cooperate in an unconditional dialogue to find a lasting solution through existing mechanisms. “My country does not believe in missile diplomacy,” she said, calling on the Council to stand against nuclearization and for de-escalation. The people of the Korean Peninsula have a right to peaceful existence and the Council must not turn a deaf ear to their aspirations.

PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) expressed deep concern over yet another launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – a sad step in the escalation of the tensions and deterioration of the situation. The launch poses a serious threat to peace and security – not only in the Korean Peninsula but to the world at large, as “peace is a global good and affects all of mankind,” he stated. Reiterating his call upon Pyongyang to refrain from contributing to the escalation of tensions and to comply with Security Council resolution 2270 (2016), he noted the maintenance of peace and security in the world was the main reason behind the creation of the United Nations – and is therefore the responsibility of all States. Mozambique cannot accept acts that, by their nature, pose serious threats to peace and security everywhere in the world. The Council must address the situation in a collective, united manner, saving future generations from weapons of mass destruction.

MONICA SOLEDAD SANCHEZ IZQUIERDO (Ecuador), noting that the recent launch is “not an isolated event”, called on the Council to implement its own decisions. This organ that believes that the launch of intercontinental ballistic missile is a threat to regional and international peace security also has the responsibility to use all tools available to promote the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s compliance with its provisions. To reduce tensions in the region, she urged for greater cooperation and dialogue based on good faith and in compliance with international law. She also called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to comply fully with its obligations in accordance with international law and Security Council resolutions.

MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) noted that the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea last week is the seventeenth ballistic missile launch in 2023 alone. This weapon, which reportedly can be fired more quickly than missiles using liquid propellants, represents a clear and dangerous escalation, he said, adding that the recent missile launch prompted concern in Japan over its trajectory, with residents of Hokkaido initially cautioned to seek shelter or evacuate. The Security Council must address such behaviour, he stressed, adding that it has heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the region. Highlighting the importance of compliance with the Security Council’s 1718 sanctions regime, he added that the best way forward is for Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table and choose diplomacy and dialogue over provocation and escalation.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), Security Council President for April, speaking in his national capacity, noted that this year, the organ has been requested by some States to discuss the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea five times. He firmly opposed having Council meetings churned out in this way for propaganda purposes. While some Member States argue that there are serious concerns over recent events on the Korean Peninsula – and the situation is indeed extremely tense – the United States is a direct participant in the latest escalation. “We’ve not heard anything new today either”, he said, citing a one-sided presentation of events, in which guilty parties and response must strictly comply with the United States. His delegation has urged the Council to consider the situation on the Peninsula holistically, addressing the entire region. While some States accent implementing resolutions, they forget they also call for a diplomatic and political solution. Council discussions must be results oriented, he affirmed, but instead it hears of the introduction of new illegitimate sanctions which don’t consider the humanitarian situation in the country. He further cited the AUKUS partnership as a cause of serious concern. The monthly repetition of the same positions could undermine Council authority, while the Russian Federation and China have repeatedly offered targeted initiatives, which remain on the table.

JOONKOOK HWANG (Republic of Korea) recalled that, since the beginning of 2022, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has launched more than 80 ballistic missiles, including 11 intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea regime is obsessed with its unlawful weapons of mass destruction programmes, despite the severe suffering of its own people. He described as “deplorable” that the Council has remained silent since the vetoes wielded by two permanent members last May, leading to the international community’s desensitization to such dangerous developments unfolding in North-East Asia. Against this deeply disturbing backdrop, he highlighted the need to cut off that country’s revenue sources, noting that it profits massively from its malicious cyberactivity, which have a seriously destabilizing effect on international peace and security. The Council should do more to counter this matter. In this context, he stressed that sanctions have been curbing illicit revenue streams to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to some degree. However, to be fully effective, such measures must be thoroughly implemented by all, including the permanent members of the Council.

The argument that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s continued missile provocations are mainly triggered by the military exercises of the Republic of Korea and the United States is simply not consistent with the facts, he asserted, adding that Pyongyang conducts dangerous tests according to its own playbook. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea clearly said that its so-called Hwasong-18 launch last week was prepared under its long-term plan. Moreover, its national defence science research institute carried out tests of an underwater nuclear attack drone, which has been in development since 2012. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s reckless pursuit of a nuclear arsenal and its totalitarian control of its own people are two sides of the same coin, he asserted, urging all Council members to support the revival of its public meetings on the human rights situation in that country.

Ms. THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), taking the floor a second time, said she wanted to offer some corrections to certain statements. The trilateral AUKUS partnership is intended to enhance peace and stability, she said, adding that Australia is expected to acquire conventionally armed nuclear-powered submarines. The Russian Federation and China already operate such submarines in the Pacific and around the world, she added. Australia is a non-nuclear-weapon State, and will remain so as its Government has made clear. As to the assertion that only the United States condemns the actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, she said today’s statements prove otherwise. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s actions were roundly condemned by all countries except a couple and “you know who you are”, she said.

Mr. ZHANG (China), taking the floor a second time, said AUKUS cooperation, in essence, entails the unprecedented transfer of tons of weapons-grade nuclear material from nuclear-weapons States to non-nuclear-weapons States – a glaring example of nuclear proliferation. The non-nuclear-weapons State that accepts them crosses the nuclear threshold with one foot, he stressed. AUKUS cooperation is a serious violation of the object and purpose of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, with those States ignoring their obligations on that issue. Such double-standard acts undermine efforts by the international community to uphold the Treaty.

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