The international outrage provoked by the firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by North Korea on Thursday, March 24 was met, before the UN Security Council, with the refusal of China and the Russia to tighten sanctions against Pyongyang.
The American ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, had denounced during a meeting the “increasingly dangerous provocations” of North Korea and announced that the United States would present a resolution with a view to “to strengthen the sanctions regime” adopted in a previous North Korean ICBM launch in 2017.
But Beijing and Moscow have ruled out any hardening. The Chinese ambassador, Zhang Jun, even pleaded on the contrary for a “timely relief from sanctions”while Russian diplomat Anna Evstigneeva said she fears that a tightening of sanctions “threatens North Korean citizens with unacceptable socio-economic and humanitarian problems”.
North Korea ‘ready for confrontation’
Following the meeting, a group of fifteen nations, including three permanent members of the Security Council – Britain, France and the United States – issued a joint statement urging UN member states, in particular the members of the Council, to do more.
” The [Corée du Nord] demonstrates its determination to pursue its weapons program while escalating its defiant behavior – and yet the Council has remained silent”deplores the declaration, signed in particular by Brazil, Ireland and Norway, non-permanent members of the Security Council, as well as by Germany, Japan and South Korea.
The missile fired Thursday flew higher and farther than any previous ICBM tested by the nuclear-armed country. Called Hwasong-17, it is capable of striking any part of American territory, and has landed in Japan’s exclusive economic maritime zone.
The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, personally ordered and supervised the test, assuring according to the state news agency KCNA that this missile would raise awareness in the ” whole world (…) of the power of our strategic armed forces”. North Korea is “ready for a long-term confrontation with the American imperialists”he added, appearing in photos taken by state media wearing his usual black leather jacket and dark sunglasses, walking on the tarmac in front of a huge missile.
A “monster missile”
The shooting was condemned on Friday by the G7, which denounced a “flagrant violation” North Korea’s obligations to the United Nations. The Hwasong-17, first unveiled in October 2020 and nicknamed “monster missile” by analysts, had never been successfully tested before, and the launch prompted further US sanctions.
“These reckless actions threaten regional and international peace and security, pose a dangerous and unpredictable risk to international civil aviation and maritime navigation in the region, and demand a united response from the international community.”, underlined the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the seven members of the G7 as well as the High Representative of the European Union. North Korea “certainly has other things in store” after firing this missile, further estimated the US national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
It’s about “of a breach of the moratorium on the launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles to which President Kim Jong-un” signed up in 2017, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said. South Korean military said it ‘retaliated’ by firing “missiles from the ground, the sea and the air” off its coast.
UN resolutions prohibit North Korea, hit by heavy international sanctions for its nuclear and armament programs, from carrying out ballistic missile tests, which did not prevent Pyongyang from carrying out around ten tests of this type since the beginning of the year. But it was not until now intercontinental missiles, even if Washington and Seoul suspect the North Korean regime of having tested certain ICBM systems during these launches.
Pyongyang carried out three ICBM launches in 2017. The device then tested, the Hwasong-15, was able to reach the United States. According to Seoul, a missile test by North Korea on March 16 ended in failure, with the projectile exploding in the sky above Pyongyang shortly after launch. Kim Jong-un said last year that improving the country’s military capabilities was a priority for the regime.