May 17, 2017 9:45 am JST

UN mulls tougher sanctions against North Korea

Latest missile test sparks calls for further action, but no new measures decided

ARIANA KING, Nikkei staff writer

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley addresses a press conference accompanied by Japan's U.N. Ambassador Koro Bessho, right, and South Korea's U.N. Ambassador Cho Tae-yul, in New York on May 16. © Reuters

UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council met for an urgent meeting Tuesday to discuss possible further sanctions in response to North Korea's continued breaches of U.N. resolutions against the reclusive country's illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

"We want to look at the current sanctions in place, and we want to look at strengthening the sanctions," U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told reporters at a news conference before heading into the closed-door meeting to address council members.

Brushing aside the possibility of engaging in dialogue with Pyongyang before seeing a total stop of the proscribed weapons testing, Haley called on the international community to exert economic, diplomatic and political pressure on the North.

"We are going to send a very strong, unified message to North Korea that the international community wants to support you, but as long as you test and as long as you continue your nuclear program, you are on an island by yourself," Haley said, speaking alongside ambassadors from Japan and South Korea.

Tuesday's urgent meeting followed Pyongyang's Sunday launch of what appeared to be an intermediate range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, where it landed, falling within 100km of the Russian coast.

Given the trajectory of the missile and the angle at which it was launched, experts suggested that such a missile would be capable of hitting the U.S. territory of Guam. North Korea's state media also said the missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The U.S. and Pyongyang's ally China have been in talks on possible measures in response to the North's provocations, Haley said. Though Haley indicated that no concrete sanctions had been agreed ahead of the meeting, she suggested this most recent test -- of a longer-range missile -- could be the one to spur action.

"The conversations that I have had and that have been made with my counterpart and in dealing with Beijing is that, if [North Korea] did something else, and if it looked to be long-range -- which this does -- and if it looks like it's proactively leaning toward an ICBM -- which it does -- then we would take action," Haley told reporters.

"We have worked well with China, they have really tried to help us in our communications with North Korea, but we've seen where they have strengthened sanctions, other countries are trying to fill that void," Haley warned.

Haley also noted that the U.S. was keeping the option of adopting sanctions against countries aiding North Korea.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Elbio Rosselli, Uruguay's ambassador to the U.N. and president of the Security Council for the month of May, indicated that the council would continue to consider the North Korean issue, but did not indicate when the next steps might come.

"The members of the council are discussing the many different avenues possible to continue treating this situation -- clearly sanctions are a way to go, the council has already gone this road, and there are ample possibilities to go this way."

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