The United States has asked the United Nations Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss North Korea’s test-launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile, diplomats said.
North Korea confirmed that it had fired a Hwasong-12 “mid-range ballistic missile” on Sunday, fuelling concen the nuclear-armed state could resume long-range testing.
The launch was the seventh missile test conducted by North Korea in January and the first time the country fired a missile of that size since 2017.
The UN Security Council meeting is expected to be held behind closed doors on Thursday, and it is up to Russia, the president of the council for the month of February, to confirm the timing.
Washington has been pushing for tougher sanctions against Pyongyang over the recent missile launches.
In mid-January, the administration of US President Joe Biden imposed unilateral sanctions on five North Koreans, one Russian, and a Russian firm over the tests.
The US also had proposed imposing a UN travel ban and asset freeze on five of those individuals, but China and Russia blocked that effort at the Security Council on January 20, diplomats said at the time.
Japan and South Korea both detected the launch of the suspected intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) on Sunday morning, saying it was a threat to regional security.
On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned the weekend launch and urged North Korea “to desist from taking any further counterproductive actions”, a UN spokesperson said.
“This is a breaking of the DPRK’s announced moratorium in 2018 on launches of this nature, and a clear violation of Security Council resolutions,” said deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq, using the official name for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
“It is of great concern that the DPRK has again disregarded any consideration for international flight or maritime safety,” Haq added in a statement.
Since 2006, North Korea has been subjected to UN sanctions, which the Security Council has strengthened over the years in an effort to target funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
The Biden administration has urged North Korea to return to denuclearisation talks, which have been stalled since 2019, when a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then-US President Donald Trump collapsed over Pyongyang’s demands for sanctions relief.
In Sunday’s test, North Korea said it fired the missile on an elevated trajectory “in consideration of the safety of neighbouring countries”.
The test “confirmed the accuracy, safety, and operational effectiveness of the produced Hwasong-12 type weapon system”, North Korean state news agency KCNA said on Monday.