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DPR Korea launches ‘unprecedented number’ of missiles, Security Council hears

Flags of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea fly in Pyongyang.
Unsplash/Micha Brändli
Flags of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea fly in Pyongyang.

DPR Korea launches ‘unprecedented number’ of missiles, Security Council hears

Peace and Security

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) launched “an unprecedented number” of cruise and ballistic missiles over the course of just 48 hours this week, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, told the Security Council in an emergency meeting on Friday.

And yet, despite having conducted missile tests on Wednesday and Thursday, Mohamed Khiari informed the ambassadors that DPRK, more commonly known commonly as North Korea, “has yet to publicly provide details” on the launches. 

He pointed out that yesterday’s missile launch was “assessed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)”, which reportedly covered a range of 760 km, and reached a height of around 1,920 km, “indicating that…[it] may not have been successful”.

Guterres condemns ‘barrage’ of missiles

Shortly before the meeting began at UN Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement through his Spokesperson strongly condemning DPRK’s ICBM launch and “barrage” of other missiles over the past two days.  

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He called on the DPRK to immediately cease any further reckless acts and to comply fully with its international obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions. 

The UN chief expressed deep concern at the overall level of tension on the Korean Peninsula between north and south, and the increase in confrontational rhetoric.

Mr. Guterres strongly urged North Korea to immediately return to the negotiating table and asked the key parties to resume their diplomatic efforts with a view to achieving sustainable peace and a complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Flight, maritime safety

Briefing ambassadors on the details, Mohamed Khiari said one of the ballistic missiles launched on Wednesday reportedly fell into the sea near the territorial waters of the Republic of Korea, more commonly referred to as South Korea.

“It is troubling that the DPRK has consistently and irresponsibly disregarded any consideration for international flight or maritime safety,” said the senior UN official. 

While DPRK’s National Aviation Administration stated on 8 October following an earlier launch, that operations did not pose a risk to civil aviation or the region as a whole, aircraft operators are required to assess the safety of their own flight operations. 

“To meet this obligation, operators rely on coordination amongst air traffic services authorities, as well as the promulgation of timely information on hazards”, he explained.

‘Action-reaction cycle’

The Assistant Secretary-General reminded that the current meeting was the ninth time this year that the Council has met to discuss North Korea

Following the last briefing on 5 October, he recalled the DPRK’s claim that its seven earlier missile launches were all part of “tactical nuclear operation units”. 

“While all concerned seek to avoid an unintended escalation, the spate of missile launches and military exercises contributes to a negative action-reaction cycle”, underscored Mr. Khiari. 

To lower the risk of miscalculation and reduce tensions in the region, he said it was “critical” that communication channels be strengthened, “including inter-Korean and military to military”. 

Unity of the Security essential to ease tensions –  UN Assistant Secretary-General

Call for unity

Although the Secretariat remains in close contact with all parties, including North Korea, given the potential risks associated with any military confrontation, the UN official stressed that the Council must do all it can to prevent an escalation.

“Unity in the Security Council is critical,” he spelled out, adding that it “also creates an opportunity to seek off-ramps and sustained diplomatic engagement”.

Separately, Mr. Khiari drew attention to DPRK’s worrying humanitarian situation. 

“The United Nations system, in coordination with international and humanitarian partners, is ready to send staff and assistance to help the DPRK Government address medical and humanitarian needs, including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic”, he offered. 

To allow for a timely and effective response, the Assistant Secretary-General reiterated the call for “unimpeded entry of international staff and humanitarian supplies”.   

He concluded by reiterating that “the unity of the Security Council in this matter is essential to ease tensions, overcome the diplomatic impasse and the negative action-reaction cycle”.