The United States called out China and Russia on Wednesday for opposing further United Nations action on North Korea, warning that the Security Council "cannot stay silent any longer" as Pyongyang prepares for a seventh nuclear test.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, referred to "two council members" whom she said argued that restraint by the council would encourage North Korea "to stop escalating and instead come to the negotiating table."
"Clearly, silence and restraint have not worked," Thomas-Greenfield told a council meeting convened by the United States on North Korea's latest ballistic missile launches. "It is time to stop providing tacit permission and to start taking action."
North Korea has been subject to UN sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The United States would like the 15-member Security Council to vote during May on a US-drafted resolution to further sanction Pyongyang.
"We cannot wait until (North Korea) conducts additional provocative, illegal, and dangerous acts -- like a nuclear test," Thomas-Greenfield said. Washington has assessed North Korea could be ready to conduct such a test as early as this month.
However, veto-powers China and Russia are opposed to further UN sanctions and have long been pushing for the council to ease such measures on North Korea on humanitarian grounds. The United States says now is not the time.
China's UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, said on Wednesday that the US-drafted resolution was "not an appropriate way to address the current situation."
"Regrettably, the US has turned a blind eye to reasonable proposals of China and other relevant council members, and remains enamored superstitiously of the magical power of sanctions," Zhang told the council.
Russia's deputy UN ambassador, Anna Evstigneeva, said the resolution drafted by Russia and China to ease North Korean sanctions "remains on the table" and "could encourage parties to step up the negotiation efforts."
The council last tightened sanctions on Pyongyang in 2017. But North Korea has successfully worked to evade some UN sanctions, according to independent UN sanctions monitors.