The United States is negotiating with China on a possible stronger UN Security Council response to North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches, diplomats said, as tensions spike between Washington and Pyongyang, which has apparently resumed activity at its nuclear test site.
The Council has traditionally boosted sanctions in response to North Korea’s five nuclear tests and two long-range rocket launches. Sanctions were first imposed on Pyongyang in 2006.
But it was not immediately clear how open Beijing might be to new sanctions.
North Korea has in the past year stepped up its missile tests, firing dozens of various types of rockets, according to South Korea. The most recent test, which failed, came on Friday following a Security Council meeting on North Korea, chaired by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“The cumulative actions of the DPRK (North Korea) since their last nuclear test compel us to look at a range of measures that would apply pressure,” said a spokesman for the US Permanent Mission to the United Nations on Tuesday.
“As Secretary Tillerson said on Friday, business as usual is not an option. We are exploring options for a response to this series of provocations with our Security Council colleagues,” the spokesman said.
Tillerson on Friday urged the Council to act before North Korea does.
Speaking in Beijing on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the only realistic, correct choice to resolve the crisis was peacefully via talks.
US-based analysts said Tuesday that satellite images indicate activity has resumed at North Korea’s nuclear test site.
Images of the Punggye-ri site captured on April 25 appear to show workers pumping out water at a tunnel believed to have been prepared for an upcoming nuclear test, monitoring group 38 North said.
It also noted that a large number of personnel were seen throughout the facility, with some groups possibly playing volleyball, in what is very likely a propaganda scene.
And in a further sign of rising tension between Washington and Pyongyang, US professor Kim Sang-Duk became the third American to be held in the North when he was detained at the capital’s airport on April 22 as he tried to leave the country, after teaching for several weeks at an elite university.
In the North’s first confirmation of the professor’s detention, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Wednesday he had been held for “committing criminal acts of hostility aimed to overturn the DPRK”, using an abbreviation for the country’s official name.
It added that Kim was “under detention by a relevant law enforcement body which is conducting detailed investigation into his crimes”.