The United States, Britain and France have told the United Nations that North Korea, which tested what it said was a “new type” submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Tuesday, has continued to advance its weapons programmes, despite international sanctions.
Speaking to the media separately, ahead of an emergency Security Council meeting that was called for Wednesday following the test, the three countries’ ambassadors condemned the launch as a new “provocation.”
Without speaking of possible new sanctions or joint action by the council, they said they would call for existing international sanctions to be more effectively implemented.
Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from the UN, said the calls reflected a sense of “real frustration” among western members of the Security Council.
Pyongyang has been gradually improving its military arsenal since talks on denuclearisation broke down in 2019 following the collapse of the Hanoi summit between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump. It is barred from testing ballistic missiles under UN sanctions.
The SLBM test was the first since 2019 and followed recent tests of a nuclear-capable cruise missile and what the North said was a hypersonic missile.
North Korea has defended the tests as necessary for its own defence and blamed the United States for the rising tension in the region. On Thursday it accused the US of “double standards” over weapons testing,
“It is a clear double standard that the United States denounces us for developing and testing the same weapons system it already has or was developing, and that only adds suspicions to their sincerity after saying they have no hostility towards us,” a foreign ministry spokesperson said in a statement carried by state news agency, KCNA.
The US and the Council could face “more grave and serious consequences” if they opted for wrong behaviour, the spokesperson said, warning against “fiddling with a time bomb.”
There was no joint statement at the end of the Security Council meeting and neither China nor Russia, the two other permanent members of the Security Council, spoke out.
Some other countries did join the condemnation of Pyongyang’s actions, however.
“We firmly condemn this provocative action which constitutes a clear violation of the UN Security Council resolutions,” said Geraldine Byrne Nason, the ambassador for Ireland, which together with Estonia joined the confirmation of North Korea’s weapons capability upgrade.
She said the submarine missile launch “underlines the continued enhancement of the nuclear and ballistic programme of the DPRK (Democratic Republic of North Korea), which stated its ambition to ultimately acquire sea-based nuclear capabilities.”
North Korea was subjected to tightened sanctions in 2017, which have hit oil imports, as well as its exports of coal, iron, fish and textiles.
US President Joe Biden took office in January and carried out a review of North Korean policy following the failure of Trump’s summitry.
He has stepped up diplomatic efforts to bring the North back to the negotiating table, and officials have stressed the US has no hostile intent.
At the UN, the US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged the North to “refrain from further provocations,” stressing the ballistic missile tests were “unlawful activities … in violation of multiple Security Council resolutions.”
“We also call on all member states to fulfil their sanctions obligations,” she added. “We already have a sanctions regime in place, we just need to be more serious about the implementation of that regime. We need to focus on those who are violating sanctions.”