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EDITORIAL | 12-Month Window to Pressure North Korea to Resolve Aggression

The 3 parties directly concerned about regional stability and North Korea — Japan, the US, South Korea — all sit together in the UN Security Council for a year.

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South Korea's Ambassador to the United Nations Hwang Jun-dong speaks to reporters after South Korea's election to a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. June 6 in New York. (© Kyodo).

The aggressive development of nuclear weapons and missiles by North Korea requires consistent responses. And Japan, the United States, and South Korea frequently hold consultations to discuss the situation. But continuing to alert the international community to the danger posed by the Pyongyang regime is also important.

Now South Korea has been selected to serve a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Its president, Yoon Suk-yeol, at the same time, has promoted cooperation with Japan, the United States, and the UNSC

Furthermore, Japan is currently serving as a non-permanent member of that body. But Tokyo's term will expire at the end of 2024. 

For that reason, the coming year will be a critical period. That is when the United States, a permanent member of the Security Council, Japan, and South Korea will all have seats in the UNSC at the same time. 

The UN General Assembly met to elect the non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council on June 6 in New York, (© Kyodo).

An Important Opportunity

Furthermore, we should also work with the United Kingdom and France to encourage North Korea to change its course. Both are permanent members of the Security Council. 

Since 1991, when North Korea and South Korea joined the UN at the same time, South Korea has served twice as a non-permanent member. According to the Foreign Ministry, this will be the first time since 1997 that Japan, the United States, and South Korea have concurrently served terms as UNSC members.

The Security Council was initially slow to respond to North Korea's missile launches.

For example, it did not convene a meeting when North Korea launched the Nodong-1 semi-medium-range ballistic missile in 1993. Again, the UNSC only issued a written statement to the press terming North Korea's action "regrettable" when Pyongyang launched the "Taepodong-1" missile in 1998.

The first Security Council only adopted its first resolution against North Korea in 2006. That is when Pyongyang launched a series of ballistic missiles and conducted its first nuclear test.

Security Council
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya speaks with French Ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Riviere before the UN Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security in Ukraine, at the United Nations in New York. January 17, 2023. (© REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz)

Russia and China's Obstruction

Before the decisive watershed of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Moscow had generally agreed to concerted action against North Korea. Russia cooperated, for example, in the adoption of 10 sanctions resolutions. 

Recently, however, China and Russia have been overtly defending North Korea. Neither country has even issued statements condemning its provocations.

In light of this situation, Japan, America, and South Korea should join their voices and take the lead in the Security Council debate. It is of great significance that the three parties directly concerned about stability on the Korean Peninsula are all in a position to do so.

The Korean Central News Agency reported on April 14 that North Korea conducted a test launch of the Hwasong-18, a new ICBM with a solid fuel engine (©KCNA via Kyodo).

North Korea's Abductions of Japanese, Others

Hopefully, the three countries will also cooperate to resolve the abductions issue. Senior US officials said they would like to take up the abductions issue at the Security Council when they met with members of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea. That was during the families' visit to the United States in May. 

Up to now, South Korea has been reluctant to address the abductions issue, claiming it would be an obstacle to dialogue between North Korea and South Korea. In contrast, President Yoon has stated that he believes resolving the abduction issue is important. Moreover, he wishes to cooperate with Japan to that end.

China and Russia adamantly oppose raising human rights issues in the Security Council. Nonetheless, the international community has already widely acknowledged the principle that human rights and security are inseparable.

We should therefore advocate for the Security Council itself to condemn systematic and ongoing human rights violations by despotic states. 

We hope that our three countries will immediately start preparing to achieve results regarding North Korea.

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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun