North Korea launches three missiles shortly after US President Biden leaves the region. In response, Washington wants to introduce new sanctions. But Pyongyang has the backing of Beijing and Moscow.
China and Russia have blocked tightening sanctions against North Korea with their veto in the UN Security Council. The other 13 members of the UN's highest body voted in favor of a US draft resolution providing for new punitive measures against Pyongyang in response to the recent North Korean missile tests.
China's ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, called on the United States "not to limit itself unilaterally to the implementation of sanctions." Instead, Washington should "also work for a political solution".
The punitive measures proposed by Washington aimed, among other things, at reducing the annual amount of oil that North Korea can legally import for civilian purposes. The draft resolution also included sanctions against exports of North Korean goods such as watches and fossil fuels.
As a measure against North Korea's cyber attacks, the country should no longer receive any information and communication technology. According to the draft, individuals and certain companies should also be subject to punitive measures.
North Korea fired three missiles on Wednesday immediately after US President Joe Biden ended a trip to Asia, including what is believed to be its largest ICBM, the Hwasong-17. According to the South Korean general staff, this missile had a range of about 360 kilometers.
Pyongyang is also testing a nuclear ignition device, according to the Seoul National Security Bureau. South Korea and US forces in the country responded to the North's "missile provocations" with a joint live missile exercise.
The United States will hold the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council until the end of May. Behind the scenes, several allies marveled at Washington's insistence on a vote when it was expected that both Russia and China, traditional Pyongyang allies, would use their veto powers. One diplomat said that "worse than the scenario of two countries blocking the resolution" would have been for the US to do nothing at all about the recent missile tests.
The United States has been warning for weeks that North Korea could soon conduct a nuclear weapons test for the first time since 2017. As a result of this nuclear weapons test, the UN Security Council was able to agree on sanctions against Pyongyang for the last time. The then adopted UN Security Council Resolution 2397 provides for consequences in the event of the launch of an ICBM by North Korea.
According to diplomats, North Korea has nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles, but has not yet managed to combine these two technologies.