UNITED NATIONS: China and Russia vetoed on Thursday (May 26) a US-led push to impose more United Nations sanctions on North Korea over its renewed ballistic missile launches, publicly splitting the UN Security Council for the first time since it started punishing Pyongyang in 2006.
The remaining 13 council members all voted in favour of the US-drafted resolution that proposed banning tobacco and oil exports to North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong Un is a chain smoker. It would also have blacklisted the Lazarus hacking group, which the United States says is tied to North Korea.
The vote came a day after North Korea fired three missiles, including one thought to be its largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), following US President Joe Biden's trip to Asia. It was the latest in a string of ballistic missile launches this year, which are banned by the Security Council.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield described the vote as a "disappointing day" for the council.
"The world faces a clear and present danger from the DPRK (North Korea)," she told the council. "Council restraint and silence has not eliminated or even reduced the threat. If anything, DPRK has been emboldened."
She said Washington had assessed that North Korea had carried out six ICBM launches this year and was "actively preparing to conduct a nuclear test".
Over the past 16 years the Security Council has steadily, and unanimously, stepped up sanctions to cut off funding for Pyongyang's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes. It last tightened sanctions on Pyongyang in 2017.
Since then China and Russia have been pushing for an easing of sanctions on humanitarian grounds. While they have delayed some action behind closed doors in the Security Council's North Korea sanctions committee, the vote on the resolution on Thursday was the first time they have publicly broken unanimity.