Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on DPRK Non-Proliferation

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 20, 2023


Thank you, Madame President and thank you, Assistant-Secretary-General Khiari, for your briefings.

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the DPRK’s February 18 and February 19 launches of three ballistic missiles. This included the DPRK’s ninth International* Ballistic Missile launch since the start of 2022. This ICBM was launched at a lofted trajectory and landed in the Sea of Japan.

This sustained pattern of flagrant violations by the DPRK of Council resolutions explicitly prohibiting DPRK ballistic missile launches demands a response from this Council. Colleagues, there is no dancing around a simple fact: the resolutions the DPRK is violating are ours. They came directly from this Council.

We are charged with maintaining international peace and security. But in the face of unprecedented launches last year, two permanent members forced us into silence in spite of countless DPRK violations. On this vital matter, silence leads to irrelevance.

I call on the Council to condemn these latest ballistic missile launches. I call on the Council to urge the DPRK to comply with its international obligations under all relevant Security Council resolutions. And I call on the Council to encourage the DPRK to engage in meaningful dialogue.

At minimum, these three points should be agreeable to everyone in this room. After all, we are tasked with preserving international peace and security, and the DPRK’s repeated ballistic missile launches, coupled with its threatening rhetoric, is undermining just that. Our repeated failures to respond emboldens the DPRK to conduct these destabilizing and escalatory launches without fear of consequences.

But this failure is not collective. It is specific. It stems from the two veto-wielding members of this Council who have repeatedly shut down all efforts at a meaningful response. They have blocked all of our attempts at robust responses, instead condemning any move by the Council to stand behind its own resolutions as “provocative.” As a result, the Council is failing to do its job.

It may be tempting to see this weekend’s launch as a rebuke from Pyongyang, a warning to the Council that we ought to remain silent about its openly declared campaign to build an arsenal of nuclear weapons. The reality is that the last time this Council sent a strong, united message to the DPRK was in December of 2017 – more than five years ago. When we did that, Pyongyang refrained from any major provocations for nearly five years. It also engaged in dialogue.

The reality is that those who shield the DPRK from the consequences of its escalatory missile tests put the Asian region, and entire world, at risk of conflict. The DPRK showcased several ballistic missile systems, the development of which is banned by Security Council resolutions, at its recent military parade. Pyongyang paraded short-ranged ballistic missiles, Hwasong-17 ICBMs, and an ostensibly new solid-propellant ICBM system. The regime also touted its “tactical nuclear units.”

If two Member States continue to prevent this Council from carrying out its mandate, we should expect the DPRK to continue to defiantly develop and test these weapons. The Council’s lack of action is worse than shameful. It is dangerous.

Now is the time for the Security Council to work together toward a peaceful solution on the Korean Peninsula, before it’s too late. The Council must speak with one voice, as we did in 2017, to condemn this escalating pattern of reckless provocation.

To this end, the United States will again propose a Presidential Statement. We call on each member of this Council to join us in strongly condemning the DPRK’s unlawful activities and encouraging the DPRK to engage in diplomacy.

Thank you, Madam President.