NEW YORK — US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Monday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “begging for war” as she urged the UN Security Council to adopt the strongest sanctions measures possible to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
Speaking at a Security Council emergency meeting, Haley said North Korea’s sixth nuclear test was a clear sign that “the time for half measures” from the UN had to end.
“Enough is enough,” Haley said. “We have taken an incremental approach, and despite the best of intentions, it has not worked.”
Haley began her statement by ticking through all of the resolutions the Security Council has passed in response to North Korea’s provocations over the past two-plus decades, making the point that the UN has been united condemning Pyongyang but the efforts have not managed to stop its nuclear progress.
She said the US does not want war but will defend itself when North Korea is issuing threats with missiles pointed at US territories.
“War is never something the Unites States wants — we don’t want it now,” Haley said. “But our country’s patience is not unlimited. We will defend our allies and our territory.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Haley said that the US would circulate a resolution in response to the nuclear test, with plans for a vote on it next week.
“I think that North Korea has basically slapped everyone in the face in the international community that has asked them to stop,” Haley said.
While details of a resolution weren’t discussed on Monday, South Korea’s Ambassador to the UN Cho Tae-yul said it had to be “truly biting.”
“Now is the time to take measures that are strong and robust enough to compel North Korea to seriously engage in dialogue,” he said. “The new resolution must include not only additional measures to further block funds that could possibly flow into North Korea’s illegal nuclear program, but also truly biting and robust measures that Pyongyang finds very painful.”
South Korea’s response
South Korea launched a major military show of force on Monday in response to the latest nuclear test from the North, including live-fire drills simulating an attack on Pyongyang’s nuclear testing site.
South Korea’s defense ministry said Monday the drills were intended to demonstrate Seoul’s willingness to “wipe out” the regime of Kim Jong Un, while South Korean defense officials also noted there were signs North Korea was preparing for another launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Seoul said that it would activate four Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) launch pads, the US missile defense system intended to shoot down potential missiles shot from Pyongyang.
The THAAD deployment, however, has sparked criticisms from Russia and China, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said Monday that Moscow might increase its missile presence in the Pacific to respond to the THAAD deployment. Neither Russia nor China mentioned the missile defense deployment at the Security Council meeting, however.
US President Donald Trump spoke by phone Monday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a 40-minute phone call, according to Park Soo-hyun, a spokesman for South Korea’s presidential office. They discussed responses to North Korea’s nuclear test and agreed to lift restrictions on the payload weight of South Korea’s ballistic missiles.
The phone call came after Trump issued a tweet Sunday criticizing Seoul’s approach to North Korea. “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!” Trump wrote.
US, China tensions over Pyongyang
Monday’s Security Council meeting was convened in response to North Korea’s latest nuclear test, but it’s the 10th time that the council has met on North Korea this year — and the second time in less than a week, according to Jeffrey Feltman, UN undersecretary for political affairs.
In addition to his appeasement tweet, Trump has said in recent days that “talking is not the answer,” and Defense Secretary James Mattis warned on Sunday of a “massive military response” to any threat from North Korea against the US or its allies.
But Trump has also targeted China as complicit in allowing North Korea’s nuclear program to march on. On Sunday, Trump tweeted that the US was considering “stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea,” which would include China.
At the UN meeting Monday, Chinese Ambassador to the UN Liu Jieyi said the situation was “falling into a vicious circle” and urged North Korea to “stop taking actions that are wrong.”
“We strongly urge the DPRK to face up squarely to the firm will of the international community on the issue of the denuclearization of the peninsula and earnestly abide by the relevant resolutions of the council.”
At the same time, Liu cautioned against any military option.
“The peninsula issue must be resolved peacefully,” he said. “China will never allow chaos and war on the peninsula.”
Liu touted a proposal from China and Russia of a “suspension for suspension,” also known as “freeze for freeze,” where Pyongyang would freeze its nuclear program in exchange for the US and South Korea suspending joint military exercises.
But before he spoke, Haley called such a proposal “insulting.”
“The idea that some have suggested a so-called ‘freeze for freeze’ is insulting,” she said. “When a rogue regime has a nuclear weapon and an ICBM pointed at you, you do not take steps to lower your guard. No one would do that. We certainly won’t.”
Asked after the Security Council meeting about Haley’s “insulting” comment, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia told reporters he was “wondering” what was insulting about their proposal.
“This is the only proposal for a political way out,” Nebenzia said.
Haley also indirectly called out China for its trade with North Korea, saying the United States would look at every country that does business with Pyongyang “as a country that is giving aid to their reckless and dangerous intentions.”
She said that quickly enacting the strongest possible sanctions in the Security Council was the only way to resolve the issue diplomatically.
“We’ve kicked the can down the road long enough,” Haley said. “There is no more road left.”