After years of prolonged political tensions between the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and the international community, on June 5th, the United States, Japan and South Korea collectively called on the UN Security Council to address the most recent attack by the DPRK : Pyongyang’s first ever test-firing of an inter-continental ballistic missile, Hwasong 14. On July 4th, North Korea announced it had successfully tested an ICBM for the first time, which Pyongyang claimed could “reach anywhere in the world.” This statement, along with the idea that the missile could potentially strike Alaska, was enough to cause significant concern, being labelled a “global threat” by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a term later repeated by representatives of the UNSC.
Since 1985, members of the international community have battled with the DPRK’S countless nuclear threats. Indeed, this is not the first meeting regarding the grave violations of Security Council resolutions by North Korea. The issue of whether this situation is simply a déjà vu was addressed by La Voce di New York, which asked the question to French representative, François Delattre: “Do you think that stronger action will be taken or will this be a déjà vu situation?” Before his entrance at the Security Council, Ambassador Delattre responded that in contrast to previous resolutions, new types of action would allow for significant change. However, through the statements issued by various members during the UNSC meeting, it was noted that once again we have been left with empty promises.
In accordance with France, the Italian representative, Sebastiano Cardi, condemned the DPRK’s actions, emphasizing that North Korea must “abandon its illegal and self isolating policies and embark on a different path”. In this context, the Italian ambassador re-iterated that effective resolutions implemented by the UNSC continued to be of utmost importance. Similarly, British representative, Matthew Rycroft further stressed this idea of urgency to work together “with allies and partners in order to increase diplomatic pressure on the DPRK”. Despite these joint efforts, it is important to acknowledge that the DPRK has continued to undermine the UNSC, as this new missile launch follows in the wake of previous ones. Thus, this reckless assault, which had the potential to harm civilians, having not sent any pre-launch notifications to airspace or maritime safety, only further demonstrated that the DPRK is more determined than ever to develop its nuclear power.
However, tensions rose during the meeting when US ambassador Nikki Haley, raised the issue of defying sanctions, an idea introduced by Russian representative, Vladimir Safronkov. It was argued that resolutions and talks ensuring peaceful coexistence have repeatedly been used as a defense mechanism by the international community, but have achieved very little success. This led her on to conclude, that “to defy sanctions, was to hold the hand of Kim Jung oon.” She then went on to argue that “The US is prepared to use the full range of our capabilities to defend ourselves and our allies, one of our capabilities lies with our considerable military forces. We will use them if we must, but we prefer not to have to go in that direction.” In contrast, Mr. Safronkov, firmly abided by his idea of ‘acting with restraint’ as he argued that military solution were inadmissible.
Chinese representative Liu Jieyi shared this common position that military action would be ineffective. This is arguably a reflection of weak measures China has taken with regard to the DPRK nuclear conflict. In continuing to apply this framework to conflict resolution, China is effectively allowing continued nuclear action by the DPRK. As China maintains its status as the backbone to the non-proliferation regime, it is crucial that we overcome this barrier in order for any progress to be achieved. US representative Nikki Haley further emphasized this idea as she addressed the UNSC members with the statement ‘If you see this as a threat, you must vote with international community.’
While, Republic of Korea representative Cho Tae-yul stressed that this is the last opportunity for the DPRK to charter new beginnings within the Korean peninsula and international community, it is important that we lay our focus on the crucial humanitarian concerns amidst the escalating security situation, an issue re-iterated by Assistant Secretary-General, Miroslav Jenča.
Although it is of utmost importance that the international community continue to remain on the forefront of the non-proliferation regime, it is clear that to achieve significant progress new, more robust methods must be uniformly accepted by the international community.