June 8, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President.
I want to start by thanking the many Member States that worked on and sponsored the “Standing mandate for a General Assembly debate when a veto is cast in the Security Council,” including Liechtenstein, for all their efforts that brought us to today. This session is unprecedented in the history of the UN. At a moment when the Security Council is under international scrutiny, this debate creates an opportunity for the General Assembly to promote transparency and accountability.
Today we have heard two delegations deliver explanations regarding the use of a veto on a critically important question of nonproliferation, one that concerns the safety and security of all Member States.
The DPRK has a long and dangerous history of proliferation. It could not be more important for all Member States to be united in confronting the DPRK’s unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs. Since the beginning of this year, the DPRK has launched 31 ballistic missiles, including six intercontinental ballistic missiles, an intermediate-range ballistic missile, at least two claimed hypersonic glide vehicles, and two so-called new tactical guided weapons intended for the operation of “tactical nukes.” This is the largest number of DPRK ballistic missiles ever launched in a single year – and it is only June. Each and every one of these launches violated multiple Security Council resolutions that were adopted by consensus.
In response to these provocations, China and Russia’s cast vetoes that gave the DPRK an implicit nod of approval. A mere nine days later, the DPRK was emboldened enough to launch eight more ballistic missiles – the highest number of ballistic missiles tested in a single event in DPRK history. What’s more, all of this has occurred as the DPRK is finalizing preparations for a potential seventh nuclear test. And don’t just take our word for it. The Secretary-General strongly condemned the DPRK’s March 24 ICBM launch – the same launch that the vetoed resolution sought to address. And the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported observations that the DPRK’s is preparing its nuclear testing site.
These actions by the DPRK have been unprovoked. President Biden and Secretary Blinken have repeatedly and publicly said that we seek a dialogue with Pyongyang, without preconditions. We have passed this message on through private channels as well – including high-level personal messages from senior U.S officials to senior DPRK officials. We have sent this message through third parties, in writing, and with specific proposals. We have encouraged our allies and partners and others, including China, to convey our openness to diplomacy with the DPRK and to make it clear that we seek serious and sustained diplomacy that addresses both the concerns of the DPRK as well as those of the international community.
We have offered humanitarian aid to the people of North Korea. And after the recent COVID outbreak in the DPRK, we offered to help the DPRK deal with the COVID-19 challenge and deliver vaccines to the North Korean people. China is are well aware of our efforts because we have asked them to convey our message to the DPRK. Unfortunately, we did not receive a response to that offer – or to any of our offers for dialogue and diplomacy without preconditions. Instead, the DPRK responds with repeated and destabilizing launches that threaten not only the region, but the world.
For a long time, the Security Council has been united on the question of non-proliferation in the DPRK. This consensus has been codified in multiple resolutions since 2006 – each of them negotiated and unanimously agreed by all members of the Security Council. The resolutions worked. Over the years, the sanction measures have undeniably slowed down the DPRK’s unlawful WMD and ballistic missile developments. But for these resolutions to be fully effective, all Member States must fully implement them.
Now let me be clear: sanctions are not a substitute for diplomacy. And they are not designed to be permanent. The United States is more than prepared to discuss easing sanctions to achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. I know many of our Security Council colleagues would agree. Nor are sanctions the cause of escalatory behavior. They are a response to escalatory behavior. There is only one country that is escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula with unprovoked launches and threatening rhetoric and that is the DPRK.
But until the DPRK engages in diplomacy and undertakes meaningful actions toward denuclearization, we must work together to restrict its unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs. And that is exactly what the Security Council, as a whole, committed to do in 2017. The Council determined in resolution 2397 that we would further tighten sanctions in the event of another ICBM launch by the DPRK.
Multiple ICBM launches later, the United States proposed a Security Council resolution to simultaneously curb the DPRK’s unlawful WMD and ballistic missile advancements and to alleviate the DPRK’s humanitarian situation. We did this because providing humanitarian aid and addressing threats to international peace and security are not, and never have been, mutually exclusive. And because a new resolution was the only way to effectively address the full scope of these pressing challenges. The United States also included a provision in its draft resolution to facilitate pandemic-related aid to the DPRK and remains committed to supporting the 1718 exemptions process, which – to date – has approved 89 packages for assistance.
The United States actively worked towards a consensus resolution. You heard from our colleagues that we held an inclusive and flexible process that considered all Council members’ inputs. Thirteen Security Council members, representing every region in the world, constructively engaged to carry out the Council’s responsibilities to maintain international peace and security. And on May 26, thirteen Council members, expressed their commitment to protecting the global nonproliferation regime through their votes. Thirteen Council members chose to send a strong message to the DPRK that its unlawful WMD and ballistic missile development will not be tolerated, and to send a signal to all proliferators that there should be consequences for their behavior.
Two did not. Unfortunately, their explanations for exercising the veto were insufficient, not credible, and not convincing. The vetoes were not deployed to serve our collective safety and security. Earlier this year, Russia and China pledged a “no limits partnership.” We hope these vetoes are not a reflection of that partnership – of a partnership elevated above the collective interests of this body, or of the multilateral institutions mandated to ensure the safety and security of us all.
After the Second World War, our countries came together, collectively, in support of a set of principles that would prevent conflict and alleviate human suffering – that would recognize and promote respect for human rights – and that would foster an ongoing dialogue to uphold and improve a system that benefited all people. The most powerful countries in the world agreed to exercise a form of self-restraint. That led to our rules-based international order – the system of laws, agreements, principles, and institutions that the world has built together to manage relations between states, prevent conflict, and uphold the rights of all people. Nonproliferation is a critical part of this. As Secretary Blinken recently said, and I quote, “on nonproliferation and arms control, it’s in all of our interests to uphold the rules, the norms, the treaties that have reduced the spread of weapons of mass destruction.”
Sending a clear message to the DPRK that its destabilizing launches are unacceptable – and working to stop its nuclear weapons program – is in all of our interests. So the United States will continue discussing our respective responsibilities as permanent Security Council members – the responsibilities entrusted to us by those here in this Assembly. For our part, the United States will continue to work regularly, diligently, and transparently with the Security Council, our allies and partners, and all Member States who seek to stop the DPRK’s unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs and uphold the values of non-proliferation enshrined in the very first resolution adopted by this General Assembly.