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EDITORIAL | How Can the UN Security Council Preserve Peace with China, Russia Around?

With each missile launch by North Korea that Beijing and Moscow refuse to condemn, the authority of the UN Security Council is undermined.



Security Council
The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting to discuss its responses to North Korea's ICBM and other missile launches. In New York on February 20. (© Kyodo)

On February 20, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held an emergency meeting to discuss a response to the recent multiple ballistic missile launches by North Korea. One was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Japan, the United States, and other countries insisted on adopting a statement of condemnation. Nevertheless, China and Russia opposed the Security Council resolution, preventing a unanimous response. 

Instead, both China and Russia defended North Korea in the UNSC. They argued that the United States and South Korea had increased tensions through their joint military drills. China further claimed that "sanctions and increased pressure will not alleviate or resolve the situation." That statement fell on deaf ears.

The North's missile launches clearly violate multiple UNSC resolutions.

All members of the Security Council unanimously adopted the resolutions against North Korea from 2006 to 2017. Resolution 2397 (December 2017) also obligates the Security Council to adopt further restrictions on oil exports to North Korea if it conducts another nuclear test or launches an ICBM. China and Russia's response this time repudiates past Security Council resolutions, those to which they have agreed.

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)

UN Security Council’s Dysfunction

Naturally, the UNSC should be united in its response to North Korea's provocations. However, immediately after the invasion of Ukraine, Russia vetoed a resolution submitted by the United States and other countries condemning Russia. With the deepening confrontation between Russia and the West, the Security Council has also exposed its dysfunction on the Ukraine issue.

Moreover, China, which is at odds with Japan, the United States, and other countries over the Taiwan issue, is supporting Russia. In May of 2022, 13 of the 15 UNSC members voted to strengthen sanctions on North Korea due to its ICBM launch. Nevertheless, China and Russia blocked the vote by exercising their veto rights.

North Korea must have welcomed this split, noted France's Ambassador to the United Nations Nicolas de Rivière. He pointed out: "With each missile launch by North Korea, the authority of the Security Council is undermined. Its internal split is shielding the North's provocations." 

North Korea will continue its provocations in the region, knowing that no new sanctions will be imposed in the foreseeable future.

Ukraine Security Council
China's Director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Wang Yi speaks during the Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, Germany February 18, 2023. (©REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay)

Importance of Highlighting the Problems

However, Japan and the West must continue to voice their disapproval of China, Russia, and North Korea in the UNSC and in conjunction with the UN General Assembly. The failures of China, Russia, and North Korea must be exposed, even if the UNSC cannot reach a unanimous decision. 

As permanent members of the UNSC, China and Russia have a heavy responsibility for "maintaining international peace and security." Their failure to carry out these obligations shows that China and Russia are unfit for their positions in the international body.

Japan is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and chair of the G7 in 2023. That puts Tokyo in an excellent position to lead the discussion on the North Korea issue. 

The United States is also considering re-submitting the draft statement on North Korea. Japan should show its determination and never tolerate a monopoly by China and Russia or provocations by North Korea.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun