(CNSNews.com) – While Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping were meeting in Moscow on Monday, their representatives at the U.N. were working together to stymie a U.S.-led effort to have the Security Council condemn yet another North Korean missile test – a violation of a series of council resolutions.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in response Chinese and Russian “obstructionism” was encouraging the Kim Jong Un regime “to launch ballistic missiles with impunity.”
In what has become a familiar pattern in New York, Russia and China rejected calls for the council to deliver a unified response to Pyongyang’s March 15 intercontinental ballistic missile launch – the second of its kind this year – and laid blame for the regional tensions on U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises.
China and Russia also accused the U.S. of hypocrisy, saying it sought to punish North Korea for its missile and nuclear programs even as it encouraged proliferation by planning to provide its ally Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.
They argued that the plan – under the U.S.-U.K.-Australia security partnership known as AUKUS – would violate the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by enabling Australia, a non-nuclear weapons state under the treaty, to acquire nuclear reactors to power submarines.
Chinese Deputy Ambassador Geng Shuang accused the U.S. of “double standards par excellence,” saying it was that type of behavior that is undermining the credibility of the Security Council. In the context of concerns about the dangers of nuclear proliferation, he said, “AUKUS is undoubtedly the elephant in the room.”
His Russian counterpart Anna Evstigneeva picked up theme, saying AUKUS was creating “artificial divisive lines” in the Asia Pacific, alarming not just North Korea but also other countries in the region.
The tag-team performance also saw both countries point to the claims of non-conventional weapons activities by Saddam Hussein to justify the Iraq war 20 years ago, to further support their allegations of U.S. hypocrisy.
An evidently frustrated Thomas-Greenfield asked for the floor a second time to respond to the charges.
Denying that AUKUS contravenes the NPT, she said, “our Chinese colleagues are once again trying to distract us from the matter at hand, which is to condemn the DPRK’s proliferation.”
“And I find it very interesting that neither China nor Russia today – not a single time – called on the DPRK to cease their [missile] testing,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “And I know it’s not okay with you that they continue to test, but not to even condemn the testing in the Security Council when 13 other members condemned those testing, I find really interesting and enlightening.”
(DPRK is the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Stalinist state’s formal name.)
Thomas-Greenfield also pushed back at the suggestions that U.S.-South Korea military maneuvers were responsible for North Korea’s missile provocations. The joint exercises had been scaled back in a bid to reduce tensions and were not being held at the time when the unprecedented succession of missile tests began early last year. (The drills resumed only after Kim Jong Un abandoned a self-imposed moratorium after four years.)
“So, let’s be clear here,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “This is about DPRK. It is not about the U.S. It is about their attacks on peace and security, their attacks on Security Council resolutions that the entire Council passed.”
The U.S. proposed a “presidential statement” in response to the launches, but issuing one requires the support of all 15 council members.
Instead, after the meeting, the American ambassador read out an informal joint statement outside, on behalf of nine council members plus South Korea, condemning the latest launches and calling on the council to “overcome its prolonged silence and speak out against the DPRK’s destabilizing violations.”
In addition to Russia and China, the council members that did not put their names to the joint statement were Brazil, Gabon, Ghana, and Mozambique.
Between 2006 and 2017 the council adopted a string of resolutions relating to North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities, nine of which prohibited the launching of ballistic missiles.
The last of those resolutions, passed unanimously in late 2017, warned that any further ballistic missile or nuclear test would trigger “further significant measures” against North Korea.
Days later Kim Jong Un announced a policy shift, laying the groundwork for a launch moratorium and historic summits with President Trump. Although the diplomacy later faltered, Security Council unity on the issue was not tested again until May last year, when a U.S.-drafted resolution condemning missile launches was vetoed by Russia and China.
Despite ten ICBM launches, and numerous other missile tests, since the beginning of 2022, the council has failed to reach agreement on how to respond to the provocations.
While opposing joint condemnation of Pyongyang, Russia and China have since late 2021 been proposing an alternative resolution that would lift some sanctions, in a move they say would promote the resumption of dialogue with the regime.
Thomas-Greenfield said on Monday the China-Russia resolution would reward North Korea “for doing nothing.”
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