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Missile tensions US urges ‘concerted’ international effort on North Korea

Robert Wood, US permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, in Geneva Wednesday.

(Keystone)

The United States has urged the international community in Geneva to work together and for influential states to use ‘decisive leverage’ to pressure North Korea into giving up its banned nuclear and missile programmes by fully enforcing economic sanctions.

“North Korea represents an undeniable threat to international peace and security. The time for debate has long passed, now is the time for concerted action,” Robert Wood, the US permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament, said in Geneva Wednesday.

The ambassador said UN member states must fully implement existing UN Security Council resolutions and “tighten the web of sanctions” against North Korea. Nations should use “decisive leverage” against the country’s “increasingly destabilising actions,” he said.

“The goal of using such sanctions is to pressure the government of North Korea to abandon its prohibited programs and activities, not to punish the people or economy of North Korea or other countries,” said Wood.

Talking to journalists afterwards, Wood said states were discussing what further sanctions were possible.

"But we are obviously going to look at a whole range of different measures to put pressure on Pyongyang and we will work with our allies, with other partners, with China and Russia, to
see what more we can do," he said. "And we will look at what we can do unilaterally."

During the plenary session, military officials from South Korea, Japan and US gave detailed technical briefings on North Korea's weapons programmes and their countries’ responses, such as joint military exercises and defence programmes.

International response

The forum took place a day after North Korea fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan’s northern Hokkaido island into the sea, drawing heavy condemnation from the UN Security Council, Japan, South Korea and other nations.

On Tuesday, the Security Council described the missile launch as “outrageous”, demanding that North Korea cease its weapons programme. It held back on any threat of new sanctions.

North Korea says the test launch was to counter US and South Korean military exercises. It says it was a first step in military action in the Pacific to "contain" the US territory of Guam, which has a major American military presence.

North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Chol defended the latest missile test launch, stating his country had a right to "self-defence".

"Yesterday's launch conducted by our army was a prelude of its resolute counter-measures against its military exercises," he told the gathering of officials in Geneva.

On Tuesday, North Korea’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva Han Tae Song accused the US of forcing the Korean peninsula towards “an extreme level of explosion”. 

Tensions have risen this year with Pyongyang test-launching over a dozen ballistic missiles. Fears were ratcheted after President Donald Trump warned this month that North Korea would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the US and North Korea saying it may fire four missiles into the sea near Guam.

In a statement on Tuesday, Trump said the world had received North Korea’s message “loud and clear” and that all options were on the table.

North Korea has conducted dozens of ballistic missile tests under leader Kim Jong Un in defiance of UN sanctions, but firing a projectile 2,700 km (1,680 miles) over mainland Japan was a rare and provocative move.

The latest test launch came as American and South Korean forces carried out annual joint military exercises on the Korean peninsula, infuriating Pyongyang, which views them as a preparation for invasion.

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