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US calls on UN to strengthen North Korea sanctions after missile test

People watch a TV at the Seoul Railway Station showing a file image of preparations for a North Korean missile launch. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images/TNS)

The U.S. called on the United Nations to “update and strengthen” sanctions on North Korea following the country’s launch of its first intercontinental ballistic missile since November 2017.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the UN Security Council on Friday that she would soon introduce a resolution to address North Korea’s nuclear proliferation, describing the latest missile test as an “egregious and unprovoked escalation.”

“This launch warrants an immediate – immediate – response from the council,” Thomas-Greenfield said.  She said North Korea’s “pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and its ballistic missile delivery system pose a threat to every member of the global community.”

She urged council members to come together to prevent the evasion of sanctions, although consensus on a resolution looked unlikely: China’s envoy called on the U.S. to consider North Korea’s “legitimate security concerns,” and Russia’s representative told the U.S. that negotiations are a “two-way street” and that tougher sanctions would hurt the people of North Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this week oversaw the successful launch of a new, larger intercontinental ballistic missile, in an explosive confirmation of his country’s continued nuclear weapons development over the past four years despite international sanctions and failed talks with the U.S.

It was North Korea’s first successful ICBM test since November 2017. After a series of nuclear weapons tests that year, the Security Council imposed three rounds of sanctions on Pyongyang, including oil-import restrictions.

Barbara Woodward, the U.K. ambassador, called on the council to “display the same unity and resolve to protect the safety of this and future generations as it displayed then.”

But veto-wielding members China and Russia have repeatedly called for sanctions relief for North Korea in recent months, arguing that gradual steps could help build diplomatic momentum and improve the livelihood of the country’s population.

China’s ambassador, Zhang Jun, said Friday that “easing sanctions at an appropriate time is” an important aspect of UN Security Council resolutions. He said North Korea has taken a “range of positive steps” that have not been reciprocated by the U.S.

“Allowing the situation to go down a slippery slope is not in anyone’s interest,” he said.

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