US and China clash over North Korea at UN

The US pushed for increased sanctions against North Korea, while China called for easing at the Security Council meeting.

The United States and China continued to bicker over measures to ease tensions with North Korea at an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting on May 11 amid fears North Korea will conduct a nuclear test in the next few weeks.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield (yellow shirt) during a meeting calling on the Security Council to tighten sanctions on North Korea May 11 in New York.  Photo: AFP

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield (Yellow Shirt) at the May 11 Security Council meeting. Picture: AFP

“It’s time to stop the tacit approval and act. We must act quickly to tighten sanctions and not consider mitigation,” said US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

She also opposed the draft resolution proposed by China and Russia to ease sanctions imposed on North Korea in 2017, saying the US-proposed resolution to tighten sanctions is close to consensus. “We can’t wait for North Korea to carry out more provocative, illegal and dangerous actions like nuclear tests. We have to speak up now,” said the US ambassador.

A Security Council resolution needs 9 yes votes to pass and no veto by any of the five permanent members, Russia, China, France, Britain or the United States.

China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, said the possibility of escalating tensions was worrying and called for restraint, stressing that tightening sanctions in an atmosphere of lack of trust would be “not constructive”.

“What China wants is to avoid another nuclear test, so we don’t want to add additional sanctions that could push either party to actively step up preventive measures,” he also told the newspaper after the meeting. “Negotiation is always more effective than coercion. We have seen many coercive measures around the world, in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Is there a place where the results are good? We have only seen people suffer miserably”.

Deputy Ambassador of Russia Anna Yevstigneeva also supported the resolution and suggested and called for the resumption of dialogue with China.

North Korea has been subject to UN sanctions since 2006. The Security Council has steadily tightened sanctions over the years to cut off aid to that country for its nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Pyongyang has dramatically increased missile launches despite sanctions and has conducted 15 weapons tests since January, including the first test firing of an ICBM since 2017.

The Security Council meeting came a day after the inauguration of South Korea’s new President Yoon Suk-yeol. He is a man who takes a tough stance on Pyongyang.

The US State Department warned last week that Pyongyang could conduct a nuclear test “as early as this month”.

Hong Hanh (Corresponding AFP)