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The 13-2 vote in favor of the resolution was not enough to secure its adoption as Beijing and Moscow have veto-rights. The US said the rejection means Pyongyang "will feel free to take further escalatory actions."
Russia and China have vetoed a UN Security Council resolution which proposed tougher sanctions on North Korea after the country's latest ballistic missile tests.
The outcome signifies the first split in the Council since it started punishing Pyongyang in 2006.
The 15-member Security Council vote was 13-2 in favor of the resolution, but Moscow and Beijing form a part of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the UN's international peace body.
Western diplomats said a version of the resolution, which was submitted by the United States for a Thursday vote, could return to the chamber depending on North Korea's future conduct.
US officials described the split vote as a "sharp departure from the Council's track record of collective action on this issue."
"Today's vote means North Korea will feel more free to take further escalatory actions," Jeffrey Prescott, deputy to the US Ambassador to the UN, posted on Twitter. "But we can't resign ourselves to this fate — that would be far too dangerous."
But Russia's UN ambassador called the resolution "a path to a dead end," while China's envoy said it would cause increased "negative effects and escalation of confrontation."
Analysts and some diplomats said Washington may have miscalculated in its haste to impose actions over North Korea's missile tests.
"I think it was a big mistake for the US to push for what was sure to fail rather than showing unified opposition to North Korea's actions," said Jenny Town, director of the US-based 38 North program, which analyzes events in and around North Korea.
"In the current political environment, the idea that China and Russia could agree with the US on anything would have sent a strong signal to Pyongyang," she told Reuters news agency.
Reuters further reported that one European diplomat said their country backed the US-led proposal, but that they were less appreciative of the timing and thought that Washington should have waited until North Korea conducted a new nuclear test.
Prior to the vote, US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the resolution would "restrict the DPRK's [North Korea's] ability to advance its unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs, streamline sanctions implementation, and further facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid. It also takes an urgently needed step to address the concerning COVID-19 outbreak in the DPRK."
The United States assessed that North Korea had tested six intercontinental ballistic missiles this year and was "actively preparing to conduct a nuclear test," which would be the country's first since 2017.
jsi/rs (AP, Reuters, dpa)