As North Korea Launches Another Missile, U.N. Reacts With Same Old Statement

By Patrick Goodenough | September 7, 2016 | 4:23am EDT
The U.N. Security Council meets in New York. (UN Photo, File)

( – The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday issued a statement condemning the latest North Korean ballistic missile launch, “in flagrant disregard of the repeated statements of the Security Council.”

It was the eighth such statement responding to North Korean launches since February this year, and the wording was virtually identical to the previous three, issued on Aug. 26, Jun. 23 and Jun. 1.

Tuesday’s statement ended with a commitment to “closely monitor the situation and take further significant measures in line with the Council’s previously expressed determination.”

The exact same wording, incorporating a pledge to “take further significant measures,” appeared in the last three such statements, on Aug. 26, Jun. 23 and Jun. 1, as well as in an earlier one, issued on Apr. 15. The “previously expressed determination” refers to the wording of a 2013 UNSC resolution.

Earlier Tuesday, President Obama said after meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Laos that “North Korea needs to know that provocations will only invite more pressure and further deepen its isolation.”

All eight UNSC statements issued since February are “press statements” – the weakest option available to the U.N.’s top decision-making body.

(The U.N. describes a press statement as “a declaration to the media made by the president of the Security Council on behalf of all 15 members [and] issued as a United Nations press release” while a presidential statement is “a statement made by the president of the Security Council on behalf of the Council, adopted at a formal meeting of the Council and issued as an official document of the Council.”)

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power urged the council to act to enforce earlier resolutions that prohibit the reclusive Stalinist state from conducting ballistic missile-related activities and impose sanctions.

"The Security Council must remain unequivocal and united in the condemnation of these tests and we must take action to enforce the words we put on paper, to enforce our resolutions,” she told reporters, speaking alongside her Japanese and South Korean counterparts.

Power said there had been “numerous” voices in the council meeting calling “for doing more.”

“So, without getting ahead of the council, we were also interested in increasing the consequences after this pattern of using these launches to advance the capabilities of the program,” she said, without elaborating.

The last UNSC resolution on North Korea, adopted on March 2 – following almost two months of deliberations – was a response to Pyongyang carrying out a nuclear test in early January, its fourth since 2006.

Prior to the March 2 resolution (resolution 2270), the council had passed four earlier ones between 2006 and 2013 (resolutions 1718, 1874, 2087 and 2094), all prohibiting provocative actions which North Korea continues to take – with increasing frequency.

The latest incident, condemned in Tuesday’s statement, was the firing of three ballistic missiles into the sea between the peninsula and Japan on Monday, as President Obama joined other G20 leaders at a summit in China.

The UNSC statement, reprising wording that appeared in earlier statements this year, said that “such activities contribute to [North Korea’s] development of nuclear weapons delivery systems and increase tension.”

Speaking alongside Power, South Korean ambassador Hahn Choong-hee also called on the international community to send a message that if the North Koreans continue their behavior, “they will face much stronger and insurmountable and significant counter measures from the international community.”

A Japanese reporter pointed out that repeated UNSC statements appeared to be having no effect on North Korea’s conduct.

Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho said in response that the council “will be discussing what appropriate measures to take at an appropriate time.”

Speaking for Japan, Bessho added, “We think that it is necessary for us to think about what additional actions the council can take in unanimity, in unity in bringing about a change in the North Korean behavior.”

Power declined to comment on Beijing’s stance during the council deliberations, saying she would “let China speak for itself.”

China, North Korea’s northern neighbor and closest ally, has long been resistant to tough action against the Kim regime.

The last UNSC press statement after a North Korean missile launch was issued late last month, after running into delays over Beijing’s demand that it include a line saying the missile launches should not be used as an excuse to deploy new anti-ballistic missile shields in the region. The statement that was eventually released did not include the language.

China opposes the deployment in South Korea of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.

Washington and Seoul argue it’s necessary to protect America’s treaty ally from its belligerent northern neighbor, but China says the system’s range could extend to its territory.

At a meeting Monday with South Korea’s Park on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that “mishandling the [THAAD] issue is not conducive to strategic stability in the region, and could intensify disputes.”

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