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US calls for stiffer North Korea sanctions

March 26, 2022

The United States has urged the UN Security Council to levy heavier sanctions against North Korea in light of its latest missile tests, but Russia and China have called for restraint.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in front of an intercontinental ballistic missile prior to its test launch on March 24
Over the years, the Security Council has tightened sanctions on North KoreaImage: YNA/dpa/picture alliance

The United States on Friday urged the international community to levy heavier sanctions against North Korea, at a UN Security Council meeting convened after Pyongyang test-fired its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile.

The test, conducted on Thursday, marked the first time North Korea had launched such a powerful weapon since 2017. UN Security Council resolutions have banned all North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear tests and placed sanctions on its weapons programs.

"It was an egregious and unprovoked escalation" that threatens the world, said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations. The US joined Albania, France, Ireland, Norway and the United Kingdom in calling for the meeting.

"Because of DPRK's increasingly dangerous provocations, the United States will be introducing a ... Security Council resolution to update and strengthen the sanctions regime" that was adopted in December 2017, Thomas-Greenfield said, using the official acronym for North Korea.

Russia, China urge restraint

Despite several other members urging action, China and Russia — both veto-holding powers — warned against further sanctions.

Russian Deputy Ambassador Anna Evstigneeva said stronger sanctions would "threaten North Korean citizens with unacceptable socioeconomic and humanitarian problems." Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun also urged the council "to consider how to accommodate the DPRK's justified security concerns."

Zhang said it was time for the US to "show its goodwill," indicating Washington didn't do enough in response to Pyongyang's 2018 self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests.

"Are they going to come up with concrete actions that can actually solve problems, or are they going to continue to use the [Korean] Peninsula as a bargaining chip in their geopolitical strategy?" he said.

Last fall, Russia and China had proposed lifting sanctions that keep neighbor North Korea from exporting seafood and textiles, and limit its imports of refined petroleum products. Sanctions also prohibit its citizens from working overseas and sending their earnings home.

The UN sanctions were originally imposed after the North conducted its first nuclear test in 2006. Over the years, the Security Council has tightened them in response to further tests and increasingly sophisticated nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

see/sri (AFP, AP)