‘The world is on notice,’ the U.S. envoy to U.N. said, daring Russia and China to veto tougher sanctions on Pyongyang.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, upped the ante in Washington’s rhetorical war with North Korea and its backers, warning Wednesday that Washington is prepared to halt trade with countries that do business with North Korea, and possibly use force if diplomacy fails to curtail Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.
But China, North Korea’s largest trading partner, and Russia hit back, voicing stern opposition to new international sanctions, and pressing the United States to resolve the crisis through renewed diplomatic talks. The exchange raised the prospect that Washington’s diplomatic gambit could end with a Chinese and Russian veto, painting Washington into a diplomatic corner with limited economic and diplomatic options.
Speaking at an emergency session of the Security Council, Haley said that North Korea’s first successful launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile Tuesday and other recent tests “are closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution” to the nuclear standoff in east Asia.
The latest, longest-range test “requires an escalated diplomatic and economic response,” she said. The United States, she said, would introduce a resolution in the coming days to raise international pressure on North Korea.
“The world is on notice,” she told the 15-nation council. “If we fail to act in a serious way, there will be a different response.” The United States, she said, is “prepared to use the full range of our capabilities to defend ourselves and our allies. One of our capabilities lies with our considerable military forces. We will use them if we must, but prefer not to go in that direction.”
Haley’s preference for a diplomatic outcome contrasts with earlier remarks she made about six weeks ago to the NBC Today show suggesting that the U.S. would be compelled to carry out a preemptive military against North Korea it attacked “a military base’ or “launched some sort of ballistic missile. At the time, other senior national security officials pushed backed on Haley’s remarks.
Haley said that she had spoken with President Donald Trump before Wednesday U.N. meeting about the possibility of imposing new trade restrictions on North Korea and its business partners.
“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.”
She did not explicitly threaten to impose trade restrictions on China, but she noted that Beijing is responsible for 90 percent of North Korea’s trade. Russia has also reportedly been stepping up its trade relations with North Korea. Only last week, the U.S. slapped financial sanctions on two Chinese national and a Chinese shipping company because of their alleged involvement in the illicit North Korea nuclear trade.
Haley declined to detail any measures the U.S. might propose in the Security Council resolution. But she said the international community had the power to cut off North Korea’s sources of hard currency, restrict the flow of oil to their military and weapons programs, increase air and maritime restrictions, and hold senior official accountable for pursuing nuclear weapons in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
“Much of the burden of enforcing U.N. sanctions rests with China,” she said. “We will work with China…But we will not repeat the inadequate approaches of the past that have brought us to this dark day.”
China’s U.N. ambassador, Liu Jieyi, echoed Washington’s concerns about North Korea’s missile launch, calling it “a flagrant violation” of U.N. resolutions that flaunts the “will of the international community.
But he broke sharply with the U.S. on the response, saying that China is “firmly opposed to chaos and conflict on the peninsula. Military means must not be an option in this regard.”
A senior Russian diplomat, Vladimir Safronkov, used the meeting to promote a Russian-Chinese diplomatic initiative that would require as a first step that North Korea suspend its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests, while the United States and its regional allies halt large scale military exercises in the region. They also called on the U.S. and South Korea to halt the deployment of a missile defense system, known as THAAD, that they say threatens the strategic balance in the region.
“Any attempts to justify a military solution are inadmissible,” Safronkov said. “Any attempts to economically strangle North Korea are equally unacceptable….All must acknowledge that sanctions will not resolve the issue.”
In response, Haley took the floor to call on Safronkov to carefully consider its vote on the U.S. resolution.
“If you want to be a friend of North Korea, veto it,” she said. “But if you see this for what it is, which is North Korea showing its muscle, then you need to stand strong and vote with the international community to strengthen sanctions on North Korea. And if you chose not to we will go our own path.”
Photo credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images