UNITED NATIONS — The United States and its allies clashed Friday with North Korea, Russia and China over Pyongyang’s failed attempts to launch a spy satellite and who is responsible for escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The open Security Council meeting called by the U.S., Albania, Ecuador, France, Japan and Malta to condemn the attempted launch, which used banned ballistic missile technology, was attended by North Korea’s United Nations ambassador for just the second time since 2017.
Ambassador Kim Song, who also addressed the council in July, told members the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — the country’s official name — has “an independent and legitimate right” as a sovereign country to launch a satellite for “self-defense to deter the ever-increasing hostile military acts of the United States and its followers.”
The North’s space agency said Thursday its reconnaissance satellite, Malligyong-1, failed for a second time to go into orbit, blaming an error in its third-stage flight. Pyongyang said it will make a third attempt in October to achieve a key military goal of its leader, Kim Jong Un.
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the DPRK had again defied Security Council resolutions by pursuing its unlawful ballistic missile program. She said 13 of the 15 Security Council members oppose the DPRK’s unlawful actions and have called for an end to the country’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and its tests — and for unity of the council.
Song said the DPRK has never recognized Security Council resolutions, which he claimed infringe on “the rights of a sovereign state and will never be bound by them in the future.”
He accused the United States and South Korea’s “military gangsters” of “turning the Korean Peninsula into a potential area of an immense thermal nuclear war” while clamoring for regime change in the DPRK and waging large-scale joint military exercises that he said feature “nuclear preemptive strikes on our state as a fait accompli.”
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia called the council meeting “a cynical, hypocritical attempt by the U.S. and its allies to step up pressure on Pyongyang and to detract attention from the reckless escalatory actions of Washington and its allies in the region, who represent the real sources of threats to international peace and security.”
He called the expansion of U.S.-led military exercises “blatantly provocative,” saying they further complicate prospects for starting a dialogue, which is necessary to strengthen regional security.
China’s deputy U.N. ambassador Geng Shuang accused the United States of “a long-standing hostile policy towards the DPRK,” telling the council that Washington’s continuous pressure, including sending a nuclear-armed submarine to the peninsula in July, makes the North feel “increasingly insecure.”
He said the Security Council should not intensify tension but take practical actions to respond to the DPRK’s legitimate concerns and create conditions to relaunch talks.
Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador, rejected “the disingenuous claims by Russia and China that the U.S. is acting in a hostile manner,” calling the military exercises routine, lawful and defensive.
“And unlike the DPRK’s ballistic missile launches, they are not prohibited by U.N. Security Council resolutions,” she said.
Thomas-Greenfield also reiterated the U.S. commitment to diplomacy, saying that the Biden administration publicly and privately has repeatedly urged the DPRK to engage in dialogue without preconditions. “But the DPRK has still not responded to our offers,” she said.
China’s Geng retorted that the military exercises are “at a record level,” pointing to U.S. bombers and Marines taking part, and noting more U.S. sanctions on the DPRK. “I would like to ask in this context, how can the dialogue be really resumed?” he said.
The council meeting also saw a heated exchange between Japan and the DPRK and China over Tokyo’s release of treated radioactive water from the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.
North Korea’s Song first raised the issue, saying the Security Council should denounce “Japan’s heinous crime against humanity,” which he said is jeopardizing the safety and security of all people and the marine ecological environment.
Japan’s U.N. Ambassador Kimihiro Ishikane rejected the “baseless allegations,” saying that scientific evidence has said the discharges are safe.
But China’s Geng, whose country has banned seafood from Japan, reiterated Beijing’s strong opposition, saying the discharge of “nuclear-contaminated water” into the ocean is “transferring the nuclear threat to the whole world.”