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A firefighter hoses down the remains of an unidentified missile, which Ukrainian authorities claimed to be made in North Korea, at a site of a Russian strike in Kharkiv, Ukraine, in January. Photo: Reuters

US and allies clash with Russia and China over North Korea at UN meeting

  • Beijing was urged to use its influence to end the ‘increasingly dangerous military cooperation’ between Moscow and Pyongyang

The US, Britain and France confronted Russia at the United Nations Security Council on Friday over accusations it is violating an arms embargo on North Korea by using missiles and munitions from Pyongyang in its war against Ukraine.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia rejected the accusations as “completely false”. The council meeting came after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a pact last week with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in which they agreed to provide military assistance if either faces armed aggression.

The United States also called out China on Friday, saying it should use its influence with North Korea and Russia to protect regional and global security and end “this increasingly dangerous military cooperation” between the pair.

“I appeal to my Chinese colleagues to understand that if indeed the situation on the Korean peninsula continues on the trajectory it’s going, the United States and its allies will have to take steps to defend their security,” deputy US Ambassador Robert Wood told the council, without elaborating.


Putin, Kim sign ‘strongest ever’ defence treaty amid growing tensions with the West

Putin, Kim sign ‘strongest ever’ defence treaty amid growing tensions with the West

China strongly rejected a US accusation that it was emboldening North Korea by not condemning Russia’s actions.

“The current situation on the Korean peninsula continues to be tense. How did this come about?” said China’s deputy UN ambassador, Geng Shuang. “The US should reflect deeply especially on its own actions instead of blaming others and shirking its own responsibility as it habitually does.”

China and Russia say joint military drills by the United States and South Korea provoke Pyongyang, while Washington accuses Beijing and Moscow of emboldening North Korea by shielding it from more UN sanctions. Russia, China, the US, Britain and France are permanent veto-wielding council members.

Nebenzia dismissed the council meeting – called by the US, France, Britain, South Korea and Japan – as a bid to “disseminate baseless accusations in order to detract attention from their own destructive actions”.

“Our cooperation with Pyongyang is exclusively constructive and legitimate in nature and this is exceptionally important. It does not threaten anybody, unlike the military activity of the United States and their allies,” Nebenzia said.

North Korean UN Ambassador Song Kim also sought to give reassurances, adding that unless anyone was planning to invade North Korea or Russia, “there is no reason whatsoever to be concerned about development of their bilateral relations”.

“The DPRK, Russia relations are completely peace-loving and defensive in nature as they do not target a third party, but promote progress and well being of the people of the two countries,” he told the council.

North Korean ambassador to the United Nations Song Kim speaks during a UN Security Council meeting on Friday. Photo: AP

China reacted guardedly last week to the pact between Moscow and Pyongyang. It made no reference to it during the Security Council meeting on Friday.

UN sanctions monitors said in April that the debris from a missile that landed in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on January 2 was from a North Korean Hwasong-11 series ballistic missile. Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine in February 2022.

Ukrainian state prosecutors said in May they had examined debris from 21 of about 50 North Korean missiles launched by Russia between December last and February this. The US has also accused Russia of firing “a total of four possible North Korean-supplied ballistic missiles toward Ukraine” in mid-June.

“Russia’s actions are making the world a more dangerous place for all countries,” Britain’s UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward told the council.

Formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korea has been under UN sanctions since 2006 for its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, and those measures have been unanimously strengthened over the years.

“The Russian Federation has opted to prioritise the pursuit of its illegal war of aggression against Ukraine to the detriment of the international non-proliferation regime. It has imperilled regional security and our collective security,” said French UN Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere.

For the past several years the Security Council has been divided over how to deal with Pyongyang. Russia and China say more sanctions will not help and want such measures to be eased. They proposed some sanctions be lifted in December 2019 but have never put their draft resolution to a vote as it would fail.