The United States, Japan and other countries on Monday called on the U.N. Security Council to speak with "one voice" against North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs, following an emergency council meeting convened in the wake of Pyongyang's latest intercontinental ballistic missile launch.
"Council silence has not led to restraint in Pyongyang. In fact, it has emboldened" North Korean authorities, said a joint statement delivered by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield on behalf of a total of 11 countries, apparently referring to a stalemate on the 15-member council, with China and Russia, both veto-wielding permanent members, opposing censure of Pyongyang.
"This weekend's ICBM launch poses a threat not only to the region but also to international peace and security," the statement said. The document was also supported by countries such as Britain, France, South Korea, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.
Pyongyang test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile, launched on a lofted trajectory, over the weekend after denouncing a plan by the United States and South Korea to hold tabletop exercises Wednesday and another round of exercises in March.
The United States then held air drills separately with Japan and South Korea on Sunday, while North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles on Monday.
During the emergency U.N. Security Council meeting on Monday, Russia and China, a key benefactor of North Korea, defended Pyongyang while blaming the United States for raising tensions in the region by carrying out military drills with its key Asian allies.
The council also failed to make a united response to a series of North Korean missile launches last year.
Thomas-Greenfield told a U.N. Security Council briefing that "two veto-wielding members" of the body have "repeatedly shut down all efforts at a meaningful response" despite repeated North Korean violations of U.N. resolutions prohibiting ballistic missile launches.
"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, referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
In Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said it is "extremely deplorable" that the U.N. Security Council is unable take action against North Korea's repeated provocations and violations of U.N. resolutions, while calling China and Russia's demand for the relaxation of sanctions on North Korea "unique claims."
Japan, which is currently a non-permanent member of the council, will continue to work with other members so that the body can "fulfill its original role," he said.
North Korea fires 2 missiles, warns of more launches over Japan