Close allies China and Russia reiterated their opposition to more sanctions, blaming the United States for rising tensions on the Korean peninsula.
China and Russia have defended their vetoes of a strongly backed US resolution that would have imposed tough new sanctions on North Korea, speaking at a first-of-its kind United Nations General Assembly meeting.
Wednesday's debate was held under new rules requiring the General Assembly to examine any veto wielded in the Security Council by one of its five permanent members.
Close allies China and Russia reiterated their opposition to more sanctions, blaming the United States for rising tensions on the Korean peninsula and insisting that what’s needed now is dialogue between North Korea and Joe Biden's administration.
Nearly 70 countries signed up to speak at the open meeting, which General Assembly President Abdalla Shahid hailed as making the UN more efficient and accountable.
“It is with good reason that it has been coined as 'revolutionary' by several world leaders I have recently met,” he said.
A united Security Council imposed sanctions after North Korea’s first nuclear test explosion in 2006 and tightened them over the years in a total of 10 resolutions seeking — so far unsuccessfully — to rein in its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and cut off funding.
A 13-2 Security Council vote on May 26 marked a first serious division among its five veto-wielding permanent members — China, Russia, United States, Britain and France — on a North Korea sanctions resolution.
Sparks fly thick and fast
At the meeting, China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun accused the US of ignoring positive steps taken by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea or DPRK — North Korea's official name.
Zhang blamed the United States for returning to its “old path" of “chanting empty slogans for dialogue and increasing sanctions against the DPRK”. This has intensified “the DPRK distrust of the US”, he said.
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Anna Evstigneeva said new sanctions against the DPRK “would be a dead end”.
Evstigneeva stressed that current UN sanctions have failed to guarantee security in the region “nor moved us any further toward settling the nuclear missile non-proliferation issues”.
North Korea’s UN Ambassador Kim Song denounced all UN sanctions. He said modernising the DPRK’s armaments is essential to safeguard North Korea’s interests “from direct threat of the United States”.
US deputy ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis told the assembly a record number of missile launches by Pyongyang have taken place as North Korea “is finalising preparations for a potential seventh nuclear test”.
DeLaurentis stressed that Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken “have repeatedly and publicly said that we seek a dialogue with Pyongyang, without preconditions," and that the message has been passed through private channels, including China.