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North Korea may return to launching ICBMS, UN ambassador warns

On the occasion of the United States assuming the presidency of the United Nations Security Council for the month of December, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft spoke briefly with the press following adoption of the Council's monthly agenda; at the Security Council stakeout at UN Headquarters in, NY, USA on December 2, 2019. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones/Sipa USA/TNS)
December 12, 2019

The U.S. sees “deeply troubling indications” that North Korea may be poised to engage in a major provocation, United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft warned.

“In practical terms, this would mean that the DPRK could launch space vehicles using long-range ballistic missile technology, or that they could even test-launch intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are designed to attack the continental United States with nuclear weapons,” Craft said, using an acronym for North Korea’s formal name in remarks Wednesday to the U.N. Security Council.

Kim Jong Un’s regime has repeatedly threatened to take a “new path” unless President Donald Trump eases sanctions by the end of this month. Russia and China have called for a partial easing of U.S. sanctions. Without backing off from the U.S. insistence that North Korea commit to total denuclearization first, Craft sounded a note of conciliation.

“We remain ready to take actions in parallel, and to simultaneously take concrete steps toward this agreement,” Craft said “We are prepared to be flexible in how we approach this matter. And we recognize the need for a balanced agreement that addresses the concerns of all parties.”

Russian envoy Vasily Nebenzya told Security Council members Wednesday that diplomacy should be a give-and-take, and that “it’s impossible to get something when you can’t offer something in return.”

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By reversing some sanctions, “we may encourage the parties” to “go forward in the right direction and it may also create a more favorable environment,” Chinese ambassador Zhang Jun told reporters after the meeting.

Trump has held back from responding for months as North Korea carried out short-range missile tests, some of them in violation of U.N. resolutions. But he also has revived his “Rocket Man” nickname for Kim and boasted that “we have the most powerful military we’ve ever had” and if necessary “we’ll use it.”

A return to intercontinental ballistic missile launches or nuclear tests could send U.S.-North Korea ties back to where they were in 2017, when tensions between the historic enemies surged and analysts worried about a military conflict. It would also undermine what Trump considers one of his key foreign policy achievements as he faces impeachment proceedings and heads into an election year.

While emphasizing that the U.S. hopes to keep diplomacy alive, Craft warned that “if events prove otherwise, we, this Security Council, must all be prepared to act accordingly.”

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© 2019 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.