The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations warned that her country will take military action against North Korea if necessary and called on China and Russia to do more to implement existing sanctions.
The strong statement from Amb. Nikki Haley came at an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council one day after North Korea tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile, the latest provocation from the regime of Kim Jong-un.
China and Russia expressed concern about the launch, but urged dialogue with North Korea and criticized the U.S. for strong rhetoric and the deployment of a missile defense system in South Korea.
“Today is a dark day,” said Haley. “It is a dark day because yesterday’s actions by North Korea made the world a more dangerous place. Their illegal missile launch was not only dangerous, but reckless and irresponsible,” she added, later calling it “a clear and sharp military escalation.”
“Their actions are quickly closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution,” she continued, noting America has “considerable military forces. We will use them if we must. But we prefer not to have to go in that direction.”
Instead, she discussed using trade to pressure others to fully implement existing U.N. sanctions, saying she and President Donald Trump spoke at length this morning about doing that.
“There are countries that are allowing, even encouraging, trade with North Korea in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” she said. “Such countries would also like to continue their trade arrangements with the United States. That's not going to happen.”
The U.S. will also introduce a new resolution “that raises the international response in a way that is proportionate to North Korea's new escalation,” she said, but declined to give details today.
Haley was joined by the ambassadors from the U.K., France, Japan, South Korea and others in condemning the missile launch and calling for stricter enforcement of sanctions or new sanctions targets.
But it's the response from North Korea's largest trading partners -- China and Russia, both of whom have veto power on the U.N. Security Council -- that mattered most, and they were critical of the U.S. and did not express support for new sanctions.
“Attempts to economically strangle North Korea are equally unacceptable as millions of people are in great humanitarian need,” said Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s deputy envoy to the U.N. “Sanctions will not resolve the issue.”
He called on “all nations” to act with “restraint rather than provocation and war-mongering” -- seemingly a reference to Haley's strong remarks -- and repeated his country's joint proposal with China for a halt to North Korea's ballistic and nuclear programs in exchange for a halt to U.S.-South Korean military exercises. China also reiterated the idea, calling it “objective, fair, reasonable, and feasible.”
That idea has been rejected by the U.S. and South Korea in the past, who say halting their legal defensive military exercises in exchange for a freeze on North Korea's illegal aggressive missile and nuclear programs is a false equivalence.
Russia and China also went further, demanding that the U.S. and South Korea halt and cancel the deployment of THAAD, a missile defense system meant to protect South Korea from an attack by North Korea.
“The deployment of THAAD anti-missile system in Northeast Asia seriously undermines the strategic security interests of regional countries including China. As such, it is not conducive to the realization of the denuclearization of the Peninsula and of the regional peace and stability,” said Chinese ambassador to the U.N. Liu Jieyi. Safronkov from Russia said something nearly identical -- a sign of the two countries' close coordination on this issue, despite U.S. efforts to work with them on pressuring the regime in Pyongyang.
China and Russia still have economic ties to North Korea, with China accounting for up to 90 percent of North Korea's total trade volume. While at times expressing confidence that China was taking steps to rein in North Korea, the Trump administration has also threatened to sanction Chinese businesses trading with North Korea if China won't do more to curtail them.
Haley pressed both countries to take action, saying North Korea was not listening to their calls for dialogue.
“They have not listened to anything that you’ve said, they are not going to listen to anything that you say, and so it’s time that we stand together and say that we will not put up with this action,” she said, adding, “To sit there and oppose sanctions or to sit there and go in defiance of a new resolution, means you’re holding the hands of Kim Jong-un.”
In June, the U.S. managed to get a new round of sanctions on North Korea passed by the U.N. Security Council, including a rare “yes” vote from China, but it's unclear if China or Russia would support any further steps without some sort of concession from the U.S.
The emergency meeting was requested by Japan, the United States and South Korea, the latter two of which fired off short-range ballistic missiles during joint military exercises in response to the North's ICBM launch.
North Korea's young leader, Kim Jong-un, was seen photographed inspecting the missile before launch, saying the launch was a “gift” for the U.S. on its Independence Day.