Russia has blocked a UN Security Council statement calling for “significant measures” in response to North Korea’s test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, arguing that the missile was in fact of medium range.
The United States had circulated the statement for adoption by the 15-member council after announcing plans for a new sanctions resolution, but Russia raised objections, UN diplomats said on Thursday.
The draft statement recalled that the council had agreed to take “further significant measures” in the event of another nuclear test or missile launch and that the top UN body would “begin to work immediately on such measures.”
Russia contested the statement’s reference to an intercontinental missile launched by North Korea, diplomats said.
The Russian mission to the United Nations insisted it had not blocked the statement but rather suggested that the United States “make appropriate amendments to it.”
“The Russian delegation could not agree to define the launch as an intercontinental ballistic missile test,” the mission said, adding that the Russian defence ministry believed, based on its tracking systems, that the missile was of medium-range.
The United States refused to drop the reference to the intercontinental missile and negotiations on the proposed text ended, diplomats said.
Security Council statements must be agreed unanimously.
The United States and the United Nations have said the Hwasong-14 launched on Tuesday was of intercontinental range.
The draft statement included a strong condemnation of the launch, setting the stage for a draft resolution on tougher sanctions that the United States said it planned to present in the coming days.
Addressing an emergency council meeting on Wednesday, Russian Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said Moscow opposed the move, arguing that “sanctions will not resolve the issue.”
“Any attempts to justify a military solution are inadmissible and will lead to unpredictable consequences for the region,” warned Safronkov.
“In the same manner, attempts to economically strangle North Korea are equally unacceptable, as millions of North Koreans remain in need of humanitarian aid,” he added.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley called the launch “a clear and sharp military escalation” and warned that Washington was ready to use military force “but we prefer not to have to go in that direction.”
The launch, described by leader Kim Jong-Un as a “gift” to Americans as they prepared to celebrate Independence Day, marked a milestone in Pyongyang’s decades-long drive for the capability to threaten the US mainland with a nuclear strike.