Following the latest intercontinental ballistic missile launch by North Korea, its most powerful one yet, United Nations Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed the UN Security Council on Wednesday November 29th at an emergency meeting requested by the United States and Japan. The missile, according to expert estimates, has a potential range of more than 8,000 miles, which would confirm the boast by North Korea’s official media that the missile is “capable of striking the whole mainland of the United States.” Mr. Feltman noted that the latest missile firing was North Korea’s “third test of a ballistic missile of apparent intercontinental range in less than six months and its twentieth ballistic missile launch this year.” The regime, he added, had not bothered to issue any airspace or maritime safety notifications before the missile descended into the sea in Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
“Given the grave risks associated with any military confrontation, in exercise of its primary responsibility the Security Council needs to do all it can to prevent an escalation. Unity in the Security Council is critical,” Mr. Feltman said. “Security Council unity also creates an opportunity for sustained diplomatic engagement – an opportunity that must be seized in these dangerous times to seek off-ramps and work to create conditions for negotiations.”
The UN sanctions continue to be evaded and have had no discernible effect to date on North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s calculations. He would evidently rather see his people suffer starvation than give up the nuclear arms protection he considers necessary against any perceived external threat to his regime’s survival. North Korea shows no signs of any interest in negotiations unless they result in the lifting of sanctions and acceptance of North Korea as a full-fledged nuclear armed state. North Korea’s official media claimed that the regime had “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power.”
In her remarks to the Security Council, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that North Korea was proceeding down a dangerous path, which required the international community to “further isolate the Kim regime.” She declared that North Korea’s latest missile test “brings the world closer to war, not farther from it.”
In addition to demanding full implementation of existing UN sanctions, which Ambassador Haley claimed some unnamed nations were not doing, she called upon “all nations to cut off all ties with North Korea.” This would mean severing diplomatic relations, stopping all imports and exports, expelling all North Korean workers, and taking away its voting power at the UN and other UN rights and privileges.
China, Ambassador Haley added, needs to do more to bring economic pressure to bear on North Korea. She recounted a discussion that morning between President Trump and Chinese President Xi in which President Trump said it was now time for China to “cut off the oil from North Korea.” If China does not take this forceful step on its own, “we can take the oil situation into our own hands,” Ambassador Haley added. She also warned North Korea that, while the United States does not seek war, “if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.”
Both China and Russia reiterated their proposal for a mutual freeze under which North Korea would freeze its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in exchange for a freeze on joint large-scale military exercises by the United States and South Korea. While both countries criticized North Korea for continuing its nuclear and missile programs and urged North Korea to abide by all relevant Security Council resolutions, neither country called for further economic sanctions or isolation of the North Korean regime. Both called for resumption of negotiations.
China avoided any direct criticism of the United States at the Security Council meeting. Russia, however, questioned the U.S.’s sincerity that it is interested in a peaceful solution while conducting military maneuvers and exercises, imposing unilateral sanctions and deploying the THAAD missile system in South Korea. Russia, of course, is the exemplar of insincerity, helping North Korea to evade the UN sanctions.
“Russia supports actions that benefit Russia. Russia purports to support sanctions against North Korea, but in practice supports North Korea in its effort to evade sanctions,” said Geoff Hellman, Chairman and CEO of the Economic Policy Forum. “Russia employs criminal networks to set up front companies in Singapore, for example, to transship oil.” Russia has also been “training North Korean students in transportation and logistics,” according to a Washington Times report.
Russia tries to hide behind its feigned concern for humanitarian conditions in North Korea. Its UN ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia said that sanctions should not be used to strangle North Korea economically and deliberately worsen the humanitarian situation there. He said this with a straight face, forgetting the humanitarian disaster the Russian military and its allies have inflicted in Syria and elsewhere.
The UN’s Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman also raised humanitarian concerns towards the end of his briefing to the Security Council, noting that “the United Nations and other humanitarian actors play a critical role in saving the lives of the most vulnerable” in North Korea. “Member States are again reminded of the need to support the life-saving activities carried out by humanitarian organizations in the country.”
The United Nations has a team working in North Korea, presumably to serve the humanitarian needs of its people. Mr. Feltman failed to provide credible assurances that monies intended for funding the UN’s in-country humanitarian and development programs, for which over $100 million have been requested, are adequately protected from being diverted by the regime for other purposes. The UN has been caught in the past contributing hard currency and other resources for the benefit of the North Korean regime rather than for the benefit of the North Korean people.
Mr. Feltman also failed to explain how a North Korean national now working in his own Department of Political Affairs at UN headquarters in New York has anything to do with helping to ameliorate the suffering of the North Korea people. In a less than fully transparent fashion, the UN Secretariat in New York this past October appointed a North Korean national, selected by the North Korean regime, to serve as a Junior Professional Officer in the Department of Political Affairs’ electoral division. A spokesperson for the Department of Political Affairs declined to identify the individual. Inner City Press has exclusively reported, however, that “he is the son of a Worker's Party official.”
The Department of Political Affairs spokesperson and another UN official I spoke with claimed that North Korea itself was paying the salary and benefits received by the North Korean selected by the regime and appointed by the UN for the one-year Junior Professional Officer position. My request for a copy of the memorandum of understanding signed between the UN and the North Korean regime covering the arrangements for this appointment was rebuffed. There was also reportedly another male North Korean national working at the UN’s New York Secretariat as of last year, according to a UN source cited by NK News. Where the funding for his salary came from is unknown.
How on earth can the North Korean national currently working in the UN’s Department of Political Affairs, the son of a party apparatchik growing up in a totalitarian state, assist other countries organizing their elections, the electoral division’s supposed mission? Absolutely nothing. Assuming that North Korea is really paying his salary, he is not there for such a purpose in any event. His value is to serve as a plant for the North Korean regime, which has arranged for his placement within a key department of the UN Secretariat where he can scoop up valuable intelligence for his state sponsor. If Ambassador Haley is serious about taking away North Korea’s UN rights and privileges as long as it continues its nuclear arms and ballistic missile programs, she should start with the modest step of insisting that any North Korean national working at UN headquarters be sent home immediately.