Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on the April 12 ICBM Launch by the DPRK

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
April 17, 2023


Let me start by thanking Assistant-Secretary-General Khiari for your briefing.

So, colleagues, here we are again. Here we are once again finding ourselves in an emergency special session of the Council after yet another intercontinental ballistic missile launch by Pyongyang.

If it’s starting to feel like we’re here nearly every month, it’s because we are. Almost a month ago to the day, we met after the DPRK launched its second ICBM since the beginning of 2023. And today, we meet after the DPRK’s third ICBM launch this year, which comes on top of 14 other ballistic missile launches.

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the DPRK’s April 12 intercontinental ballistic missile launch.

Once again, Pyongyang launched a missile without warning, endangering civilians, civil aviation, maritime traffic. Last week, DPRK state media claimed the new solid-fuel ICBM “promotes the effectiveness of its nuclear counterattack posture” and makes its offensive military strategy more attainable. This aggressive rhetoric demonstrates the DPRK’s continued dedication to advancing its WMD and ballistic missile programs.

In years past, there was no question as to whether the Council should – or would – respond to the DPRK’s violations of multiple Security Council resolutions. There was a time where every member of this Council came together to make clear that there is zero – zero – justification for proliferators and their unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs.

The United States believes this Council has a responsibility to, once again, send this kind of strong, unified message. And we believe this Council must do everything in its power to prevent the DPRK from carrying out future unlawful ballistic missile launches – or a seventh nuclear test.

But we remain deeply frustrated, as I know so many other Member States are, by continued inaction – inaction that is, quite simply, unacceptable. Inaction that undermines the credibility of this Council and the entire international non-proliferation regime.

The two Council members that are responsible for this inaction also continue to defend the DPRK’s behavior. Time and time again, these two Council members draw false equivalences between the DPRK’s unlawful ballistic missile launches and lawful, defensive, pre-announced U.S.-ROK joint military exercises.

But a simple review of the facts disproves this narrative. After all, by the time the United States and ROK resumed large-scale exercises in August of 2022, the DPRK had already launched 31 ballistic missiles – including six ICBM launches – and its efforts to reconstitute its nuclear test site were well underway.

Let me be clear: Our lawful efforts to defend against the DPRK’s repeated escalatory actions do not in any way justify the DPRK’s unlawful behavior.

Furthermore, UN Command has established U.S.-ROK military exercise notification protocols to mitigate the risk of misinterpretation or miscalculation. This approach stands in stark contrast to the DPRK’s reckless, unannounced, and unlawful ballistic missile launches, which pose a threat to international peace and security.

Every member of this Council reaffirmed this threat in the 1718 Committee mandate renewal resolution adopted unanimously in March.

And long-range ballistic missile tests – like the one conducted last week – threaten not only the region, but the entire world. This is not a bilateral issue. This is a threat to every single one of us.

Today, I also want to shine a spotlight on some of the DPRK’s revenue generating activities – revenue generating activities that are conducted globally to fund its unlawful weapons program. For example, we know that the DPRK conducts malicious cyber heists and other illicit financial activities.

According to the 1718 Panel of Experts’ reporting, the DPRK attempted to steal as much as $2 billion between 2015 and 2019 through cyber means. And according to private industry estimates, the DPRK stole up to $1.7 billion in cryptocurrency in 2022 alone.

The Panel has cited dozens of investigations into instances of DPRK actors targeting financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges in Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America. These revenue-generation activities directly contribute to the DPRK’s unlawful WMD and ballistic missiles programs, including the April 12 launch.

And instead of using this money to feed its people, the DPRK is using it to fuel instability. The DPRK continues to choose ammunition over nutrition.

Colleagues, the DPRK has made its intentions clear. It is now time for the Security Council to do the same. The United States will continue to seek dialogue with the DPRK and engage in good-faith negotiations with all Council members. But if we fail to act, I fear we will be again in this same meeting in the not-too-distant future – not closer to our shared goal of denuclearization.

Let us do everything in our power to change course. And let us come together, once again, on this urgent matter of international peace and security.

Thank you.