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China blocks US-led censure of North Korea at UN Security Council

China and other countries have blocked a US-drafted Security Council joint statement against North Korea’s missile launches, and urged Washington to be more flexible in dealings with Pyongyang.

During a closed-door UNSC meeting held Friday at Washington’s request, China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun insisted that the key to easing tensions with North Korea was in the hands of the US, saying, “If they do want to see some new breakthrough, they should show more sincerity and flexibility.”

“They should come up with more attractive and more practical, more flexible approaches, policies and actions and accommodating the concerns of the DPRK,” Zhang added in a press briefing after the meeting, using the initials of North Korea’s official name.

However, he complained, “We have seen a vicious circle of confrontation, condemnation, sanctions.”

The US had proposed a UNSC statement censuring Pyongyang’s testing of seven weapons in January — including its most powerful missile since 2017 — which were in response to persisting US-led military threats and war games targeting the country.

However, China, Russia and other nations refused to sign on to it, prompting Washington to claim that the council’s “ongoing silence” would further encourage North Korea to defy the international community.

North Korea launched its longest-range missile test since 2017 on January 30, defying American threats of organizing further sanctions against the country.

The test was North Korea’s sixth ballistic missile launch in 2022 and seventh missile test overall.

Beijing and Moscow have been blocking UNSC action against North Korea, and last year drafted a resolution that would ease sanctions on Pyongyang on humanitarian grounds, but the proposal has not been put to a vote due to opposition by a US-led group of council members.

“At least we are doing something to facilitate further improvement and avoiding the escalation of the tension,” Zhang said.

After the meeting, the American UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield claimed the Chinese-Russian proposal to ease sanctions would reward Pyongyang for what she called “bad behavior.”

“There’s no reason for this council to reward them for nine tests in one month and almost as many in the previous years,” she added in a press briefing.

“To spend millions of dollars on military tests when your people are starving indicates that this country does not care about its own people,” the US diplomat further claimed without explaining the logic behind her own country being by far the world’s largest military spender and weapons tester.

UNSC’s Friday meeting on North Korea was the third in the space of a month.

During the last session on 20 January, eight council members – Albania, Brazil, Britain, France, Ireland, Norway, the United Arab Emirates and the US – along with Japan released a joint statement censuring the North’s tests.

The other seven council members – China, Gabon, Ghana, India, Kenya, Mexico and Russia – refused to sign.

The same US-led nine countries again issued a new statement on Friday reiterating a demand for North Korea to “cease its destabilizing actions and return to dialogue.”

“We continue to urge the DPRK to respond positively to the offers from the United States and others to meet without preconditions,” it added, without pointing to North Korea’s security concerns never addressed by Washington and its regional allies.

Meanwhile, the US secretary of state Antony Blinken is scheduled to hold trilateral talks in Hawaii on February 12 with South Korea and Japan on how to deal with North Korea.

The administration of US President Joe Biden imposed its latest sanctions against Pyongyang last month. It further called on the UNSC to take action against several North Korean individuals and entities accused of violating resolutions that ban the North’s missile and nuclear weapons development.

This is while the North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson emphasized in a statement last month that the new US sanctions underscore hostile American intent aimed at “isolating and stifling” the North despite Washington’s repeated calls for Pyongyang to resume diplomacy.

“The US is intentionally escalating the situation even with the activation of independent sanctions, not content with referring the DPRK’s just activity to the UN Security Council,” the statement said.

The spokesperson said that the North’s development of the new missile is part of its efforts to modernize its military and explained that it does not target any specific country or threaten the security of its neighbors.

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