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6 European nations condemn North Korean missile launches

Last Updated Mar 31, 2020 at 6:58 pm EDT

TANZANIA, Tanzania — The U.N. Security Council didn’t issue a statement after discussing North Korea’s latest missile tests but six European nations on the council are condemning Pyongyang’ repeated launches, saying they illustrate its ongoing efforts to develop its ballistic missile programs and expand its arsenal.

Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Poland, and the United Kingdom said in a statement after a closed council discussion Tuesday that they are deeply concerned by North Korea’s continued testing of missiles, using ballistic missile technology.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name, has conducted 17 sets of missile launches since May 2019 including four this month, the latest on March 29.

“We condemn such provocative actions,” the Europeans said. “They undermine regional security and stability, as well as international peace and security, and are in clear violation of unanimously adopted UN Security Council resolutions.”

Germany’s deputy U.N. ambassador Juergen Schulz told the council it was sad that North Korea is giving priority to its illegal weapons programs instead of making global solidarity and co-operation a top priority and working with the World Health Organization and the U.N. on “the unprecedented global threat faced by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of transparency in DPRK’s co-operation with the U.N. over COVID-19 which we find dangerous and cynical,” he said.

The Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea which Germany heads has granted “all COVID-19 related humanitarian exemption requests with unprecedented speed and urgency,” Schulz said. “The sanctions are therefore no impediment to effectively combating COVID-19 in the DPRK.”

Talks to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program have stalemated since the collapse of the second summit between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump in early 2019, where the Americans rejected North Korean demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

Following the breakdown in talks, the North ended a 17-month pause in ballistic activity and resumed weapons launches while pressuring Washington and Seoul for concessions. The weapons launches included a developmental mid-range missile that could be launched from submarines, a “super large” multiple rocket launcher, and a new mobile, solid-fuel missile system.

The joint statement again urged North Korea “to engage in good faith in meaningful negotiations with the United States aimed at denuclearization, to take concrete steps to abandoning all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner, and to refrain from further provocations.”

“There is no other way to achieve security and stability on the Korean peninsula,” the Europeans said. “Continued provocations risk undermining the prospect for successful negotiations.”

They called on the Security Council and all countries to implement sanctions against North Korea.

China and Russia have called for the easing of sanctions against North Korea to spur a resumption of talks between Pyongyang and Washington. But their joint resolution proposing some easing has languished in the Security Council because the U.S., its Western allies and other members want to see North Korean actions toward denuclearization before any measures are lifted.

Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press

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