UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council — including the United States — rejected China’s proposal Wednesday that North Korea stop its missile tests in exchange for a halt to U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
Diplomats spoke in Manhattan a day after issuing a statement of concern over escalating tensions on behalf of all 15 nations on the council.
“We all strongly condemn the most recent ballistic launches conducted by [North Korea],” said Matthew Rycroft, Britain’s ambassador to the UN and the president of the Security Council for March. “These activities contribute to the development . . . of nuclear weapons delivery systems and increase tension in the region.”
Officials have said three of the four missiles fired Sunday landed inside Japan’s economic zone, roughly 200 nautical miles from the coast.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, called the launch a provocation by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“This is someone who’s trying to get attention,” she said, flanked by her South Korean and Japanese counterparts, Cho Tae-yul and Koro Bessho, respectively.
Haley noted that North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and launched 24 ballistic missiles in 2016. “It is an unbelievable, irresponsible arrogance coming from Kim Jong Un,” she said.
China proposed a freeze on the U.S.-South Korean military exercises under the pretense that North Korea launched its missiles in response to the maneuvers near its waters.
Liu Jieyi, the Chinese ambassador to the UN, warned that “if you look at . . . the development of events now on the Korean Peninsula, there’s a real danger; there’s a real risk.”
The alternative to China’s proposal “would be escalation of tension, and the situation may get out of control,” he told The Associated Press and other reporters.
But Haley and Cho said the joint exercises have been going on for four decades.
Bessho said the North Korean military unit that conducted the launches is tasked with striking U.S. military bases in Japan. “This shows us they are serious in these aggressive actions,” he said.
World leaders are also dealing with the impact of the installation of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea after the launch of the four missiles.
Chinese diplomats have expressed concern that the system has a range that extends beyond North Korea and into China itself.