UN Security Council ‘strongly condemns’ NKorea missile test

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned North Korea’s launch of a ballistic missile over Japan on Tuesday, reiterating demands that Pyongyang halt its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

After an emergency meeting on the missile test, the U.N.’s most powerful body called North Korea’s actions “outrageous,” saying it was deliberately undermining peace and stability in the region. The council called for North Korea to take “immediate, concrete actions” to “reduce tensions in the Korean Peninsula and beyond.”

The missile flight came less than a month after the council imposed its toughest-yet sanctions on North Korea, and it’s not immediately clear whether any further actions could follow.

“We’ll be talking about next steps starting now,” Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho said after the meeting.

For now, he said, the statement sends the North a strong message “that the international community will not accept its reckless behavior.”

North Korea isn’t on the 15-member council. While the was meeting was underway in New York, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said leader Kim Jong Un expressed “great satisfaction” with the launch and called for more ballistic missile tests targeting the Pacific Ocean.

Going into a closed session that evolved into an open meeting, ambassadors from several countries said they wanted to discuss how to respond, but first of all to show that the international community was united in firmly rebuking the missile test. The missile — designed to carry a nuclear payload — traveled almost 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometers) into the Pacific and triggered alert warnings as it soared over northern Japan.

“It is time for the North Korean regime to recognize the danger they are putting themselves in,” said U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, whose country has traded threats with North Korea in recent weeks. “The United States will not allow their lawlessness to continue, and the rest of the world is with us.”

Still, while the council statement was unanimous, the discussion was a reminder that members have different approaches to the issue.

Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi called on all parties to “avoid any rhetoric or action that might exacerbate tension” on the Korean Peninsula.

Both he and his Russian counterpart noted their countries had previously proposed a halt to both North Korean nuclear development and joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which are currently underway.

“The exercises being conducted must be scaled down,” Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said. “There is an urgent need to create an atmosphere of trust among states in the region.”

The Pyongyang news agency said Tuesday’s missile launch was a “muscle-flexing” response to the war games, which the North views as rehearsals for an invasion. North Korea had requested a Security Council meeting about the exercises last week.

The U.S. says the decades-old drills’ only purpose is to improve readiness to defend South Korea and maintain stability on the Korean peninsula.

This year, the exercises come weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump warned he could unleash “fire and fury” if North Korea continued threatening the United States, and the North then said it was considering firing missiles into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam.

The Security Council said Tuesday it was committed to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation and called for strict implementation of its existing sanctions.

The latest sanctions include a ban on North Korean exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood products, together worth over $1 billion for a country with total exports valued at just $3 billion last year. The U.S. had suggested in July that the council could do more, including restricting oil to the North Korean military and boosting air and maritime restrictions.

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