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Korean Peninsula: Security Council must find unity to calm rising tensions

“Key peace and security issues, such as the situation on the Korean Peninsula, must be an area for cooperation,” she cautioned in a briefing to the 15-member Council on recent developments. “Diplomacy – not isolation – is the only way forward.”

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During the Council’s emergency debate on the issue, members expressed divergent views, with many agreeing that diplomacy can forge a path towards peace, and others raising concerns about what they regard as other nations’ provocative military activities.

Failure to launch

Raising concerns about bristling tensions over recent activities, Ms. DiCarlo recalled that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), more commonly known as North Korea, launched on Wednesday what Pyongyang described as “a military reconnaissance satellite”, which crashed off the Korean Peninsula’s western coast.

Attributing the failed launch to the low reliability of a “new-type engine system and fuel”, Pyongyang intends to conduct a second launch as soon as possible, according to media reports, she said.

In line with its five-year military development plan, the DPRK had greatly increased its missile launch activities in 2022 and 2023, including more than 80 launches using ballistic missile technology, she added.

While States have the right to launch a satellite and to benefit from space activities, she said Security Council resolutions expressly prohibit the DPRK from conducting any launches using ballistic missile technology.

She added that even though Pyongyang had on Tuesday sent a pre-launch notification to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), it failed to alert other international organizations, including the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

DPRK is ‘unconstrained’

The DPRK “is unconstrained, and other parties are compelled to focus on military deterrence”, she said.

Despite calls from the UN Secretary-General to refrain from conducting further satellite launches using missile technology and to swiftly resume dialogue towards a sustainable peace and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Pyongyang had said the Wednesday launch was “a response to ongoing military exercises in the region”, Ms. DiCarlo said.

The last time DPRK conducted a similar launch was in 2016, which triggered the Council’s condemnation over ballistic missile technology use in violation of relevant resolutions, she said.

Nuclear weapon threats

Media reports indicate that several nations have conducted military exercises in the area in recent years.

Developing a military reconnaissance satellite was part of the DPRK’s five-year military development plan, but Ms. DiCarlo noted that it had been unveiled in January 2021, well before the resumption of military exercises in the region.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang had said launches in 2022 and 2023 involved systems with “nuclear weapon roles”, including “tactical” atomic weapons, and “continued to make references to the possible use of nuclear weapons” since her last Council briefing, she added.

Stolen cryptocurrency and aid concerns

Turning to other concerns, she said her office has been following reports of continued illicit cyberactivities attributed to DPRK-affiliated actors, including the theft of more cryptocurrency in 2022 than ever before.

Regarding the worrisome humanitarian situation, she said “the UN is ready to assist the DPRK in addressing basic needs of vulnerable populations”, reiterating a call on Pyongyang to allow the unimpeded entry of international staff, including the UN Resident Coordinator, and of humanitarian supplies, to enable a timely and effective response.

She said the Secretary-General remained firmly committed to achieving the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons and welcomed the recent re-affirmation by the Republic of Korea of its commitment to its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

For more details on this and other meetings occurring throughout the UN system, visit our dedicated UN Meetings Coverage page.

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