US effort to impose tougher UN sanctions on North Korea blocked by China, Russia

China and Russia on Thursday blocked an effort to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea at the United Nations Security Council that was led by the U.S. after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un conducted a spate of missile tests this year, including the launch of several intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Both China and Russia hold veto powers at the U.N. Security Council, which they exercised after the introduction of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) — North Korea’s official name — for the tests with more restrictive sanctions.

China’s Ambassador to the U.N., Zhang Jun, said at the UN meeting on Thursday that “the reason why today’s draft resolution failed to pass” was because the U.S. had refused to accept proposals other than implementing sanctions.

“China’s voting position is based on our assessment as to whether a proposal contributes to a solution,” Zhang said. “Perhaps some people wanted nothing but this situation, based on their cynical intentions.”

The U.S. and South Korea led the push in recent weeks for the U.N. to impose tougher sanctions on North Korea following more than 15 missile launches from the regime this year. If the effort had passed, the U.N. would have toughened sanctions on North Korea for the first time since 2017.

Following President Biden’s visit to East Asia over the weekend, North Korea fired at least three ballistic missiles off its east coast Wednesday morning local time.

Tensions between Russia and the U.S. have mounted amid the war in Ukraine, while U.S.-China relations have been strained over Taiwan’s status and China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims and other minority groups in the country, among other reasons.

Russia and China proposed a counter-resolution that would have eased sanctions on North Korea over humanitarian concerns, given that the country has teetered on the brink of a famine and is reportedly in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak.

But U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield slammed both nations for the proposal earlier this month, saying “this council should not stand for it.”

On Thursday, Thomas-Greenfield said Kim has launched six intercontinental ballistic missiles while Russia and China’s veto “protects” North Korea despite the nation violating UN security council policy.

“So China can explain, along with Russia, their actions to the general assembly,” the U.S. ambassador said in brief remarks.

The number of missile tests this year have also alarmed North Korea’s neighbors, Japan and South Korea. Biden met with South Korea’s newly elected president and with Japan’s prime minister during his visit to East Asia.

South Korean Ambassador to the U.N. Oh Joon said the resolution imposing tougher sanctions was “long overdue.”

“This could send the wrong signal to both the DPRK and other [nuclear-proliferating nations] that they can do whatever they want with impunity,” Oh said. “Unchecked provocations will only embolden the DPRK’s continued escalatory behavior.”

Tags Biden China China Kim Jong Un Linda Thomas-Greenfield North Korea North Korea Oh Joon Russia sanctions U.S. United Nations United Nations

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