China and Russia – the two main players on the Asian continent – have vetoed a United Nations (UN) resolution aimed at stepping up sanctions on North Korea for its recent missile launches. The attempt was led by the United States and could have limited the amount of oil Pyongyang imports from other countries. Notably, the resolution was triggered by the Kim administration’s test of intercontinental ballistic missiles, which was conducted earlier on Thursday.
Security Council Resolution 2397 was backed by 13 UNSC members while China, which has become Russia and North Korea’s closest ally, said it would prefer a non-binding statement to a new resolution. The United States “should not place a unilateral emphasis on implementing sanctions alone. They should also work to promote a political solution,” Chinese Ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun said, adding that the move could aggravate conflicts in the region. The DPRK imports a wide range of items including edible oil, wheat flour and pharmaceutical compounds from China, making Beijing its biggest trading partner.
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield described the vote as a “disappointing day” for the council. “The world faces a clear and present danger from the DPRK [North Korea]“, she told the council. “The restraint and silence of the council did not eliminate or even reduce the threat. On the contrary, the DPRK has been emboldened.”
I am beyond disappointed that the Security Council was unable to unite against North Korea’s illegal WMD and ballistic missile programs.
This failure rests solely on China and Russia.
— Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield (@USAmbUN) May 27, 2022
North Korea tests three intercontinental ballistic missiles
It comes a day after South Korea claimed the North fired a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile and two shorter-range weapons towards its eastern waters on May 25. If confirmed, it would be North Korea’s first ICBM launch in nearly two months, amid stalled nuclear talks with the United States. Despite the first outbreak of COVID-19, which sparked international concern over a humanitarian calamity, the launch indicates that North Korea is committed to continuing to modernize its weapons arsenal.
In recent months, tensions have escalated on the Korean peninsula. Mutual relations have also hit rock bottom due to recent missile tests by North Korea and a one-of-a-kind hypersonic projectile test by China. More recently, Seoul and Tokyo have been embroiled in a dispute over trade and historical issues, according to the Yonhap news agency.