April 21, 2017 5:20 am JST

UN denounces North Korea missile test after spat over wording

US agrees to amendment after Russia opposes earlier draft statement

ARIANA KING, Nikkei staff writer

Nikki Haley at a Security Council meeting. © AP

UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council condemned North Korea's latest failed ballistic missile launch in a statement Thursday, following a squabble over the wording between the U.S. and Russia.

The statement demanded that Pyongyang conduct no further nuclear tests and "immediately cease further actions in violation" of Security Council resolutions placing sanctions on the reclusive country's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The members also agreed to "take further significant measures including sanctions" in response. The earlier draft rejected by Russia did not include an explicit reference to sanctions as a possible punitive measure.

Koro Bessho, Japan's ambassador to the U.N., lauded the agreement. "We welcome that the Security Council was able to show unity in sending a very strong message -- I think it was -- that North Korea should stop nuclear tests, should stop missile firing," Bessho told reporters outside the council chamber Thursday.

"We did talk about wording; it took a little time," Bessho admitted. "I think we were able to get the right elements into it, and it was a very clear message, so I'm really happy that this has come out," he said.

An earlier draft flopped Wednesday after Russia objected to the lack of a reference to settlement "through dialogue," as was standard in past statements responding to missile launches.

"There was a draft press statement that the penholder, the United States, put forward," British Ambassador to the U.N. Matthew Rycroft told reporters Thursday morning before the new statement was agreed.

"The U.K. supports that, 14 members of the Security Council support that. Russia blocked it," Rycroft said, expressing surprise at Russia's position and noting that Pyongyang ally China had been on board with the version pushed by the U.S. on Wednesday.

The Russians, however, disputed the characterization of their objection as "blocking." In a statement on its website, the Russian Mission to the U.N. asserted that the U.S. cut off negotiations when Russia proposed to reinsert language on dialogue.

"When we requested to restore the agreed language that was of political importance and expressed commitment to continue to work on the draft with the penholder, the U.S. delegation without providing any explanations canceled the work on the draft, claiming that is was Russia who had 'blocked' the statement," the Russian statement read.

The final statement reflected the Russian proposals, welcoming efforts by countries "to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue."

A U.S. official expressed frustration at Russia's dragging out the process and asserted that condemnation should have been immediate. "This should have passed as soon as possible after the missile launch attempt, period," the official said.

Speaking to reporters after the agreement on the language, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley took a jab at her Russian counterpart, saying, "I am never surprised with any objections from Russia," adding that Russia was the sole dissenter to the earlier version of the statement.

"I think at the end of the day, we realize North Korea is a problem, and no one on the council wants to see North Korea move forward with any sort of testing or strikes," Haley said. The statement makes "very clear that we don't want to see testing or strikes, and if we have to start looking at sanctions or other actions, we will," she added.

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