Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on Non-proliferation/Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
We thank you, Mr. Kono, for presiding over our meeting today, and the Secretary-General for his briefing on the situation on the Korean peninsula. There can be no doubt that we are experiencing one of the most acute and dramatic phases in the evolving situation there. We can say without exaggeration that peace in that region is being seriously tested and the risk that the situation could be transformed from one of confrontation to outright conflict is greater than it has ever been. Military rhetoric, accompanied by rash muscle-flexing between the participants, has led to a situation in which the whole world is seriously beginning to wonder whether there will be a war or not. As we know, in such tense circumstances one ill-considered or misinterpreted step could have dire consequences. Russia has been watching the dangerously evolving situation in the region with concern. Needless to say, we are united in our condemnation of Pyongyang’s provocative nuclear-missile activity, which has gained dangerous momentum in the past year and a half. A situation such as that of the latest launch, which was made from North Korean territory with no warning whatever, endangering the lives of ordinary citizens, including those travelling by air and sea in the region, is absolutely unacceptable. We repudiate any such action by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which reinforces our support for all the relevant Security Council sanctions resolutions, which we have implemented to the letter. We call on the North Korean authorities to wind down their banned programmes and return as a non-nuclear State to the non-proliferation regime of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency. However, it should be clear to everyone that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is hardly going to renounce its nuclear-missile programme while it still feels that its security is directly threatened, which is exactly how Pyongyang sees the regular large-scale manoeuvres and exercises that the United States and its allies conduct in the region. We want to once again confirm our commitment to implementing the international sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. That said, as we have emphasized time and again, such measures should not be an end in themselves but rather a tool for engaging countries in constructive negotiations on substantive issues. Diplomacy is not just about sanctions, and sanctions are not diplomacy at all, in spite of some partners’ efforts to convince us otherwise — or at least they are not diplomacy in the traditional sense but rather a blunt instrument of persuasion when all 15/12/2017 Non-proliferation/Democratic People’s Republic of Korea S/PV.8137 17-44413 15/24 other methods have been exhausted. There is a whole range of other methods in the diplomatic arsenal. All of the Council’s decisions on sanctions also include the obligation to fulfil a political component, something that many people forget, unfortunately, as they focus on the restrictions alone. It will be impossible to settle the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula through sanctions and pressure on Pyongyang alone. Sanctions should not be used to strangle the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea economically or worsen its humanitarian situation. That applies especially to unilateral restrictions, which affect civilian sectors that have nothing to do with the country’s nuclear-missile programmes and are one reason for the serious deterioration in the population’s living conditions. Furthermore, unilateral limits that circumvent or intensify action taken through the Security Council undermine the effectiveness of the Security Council’s decisions on a political solution to the situation on the Korean peninsula, not to mention the damage that they do to third countries’ legitimate interests. Incidentally, I would like to inform the Secretary of State of the United States that the North Korean workers in Russia are not working in conditions of slavery but on the basis of an inter-Governmental agreement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that guarantees their rights. And while I am addressing the Secretary of State, I would like to add that we very much hope that his four no’s will become the basis for the United States approach to resolving the crisis on the Korean peninsula.
With regard to the Security Council sanctions regime, we have to acknowledge that the humanitarian exemptions identified in them are not working. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs recently briefed the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) about this.
The ban on correspondent relations with banks in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has complicated not only purchases of food and goods abroad for the domestic economy but also the financing of those United Nations agencies that are still operating there. There can be no question that the refusal of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to implement the relevant Security Council resolutions is unacceptable. But neither are attempts of any kind to resolve the longstanding problems in the region by military means alone.
We only have to look to the history of the Korean War to understand that. In the current situation, we urge all the parties concerned to prevent any further escalation of the tension that accompanies each new cycle of reactions and counterreactions. We must reconsider the policy of mutual pressure and intimidation. It does not get results. In our view, a comprehensive approach to resolving the situation is essential.
The Korean peninsula cannot be denuclearized without normalizing the military and political situation generally; refraining from building up military infrastructure, including the deployment by the United States in the region of elements of its global missile defence system; reducing the scale of military manoeuvres; and establishing an atmosphere of trust among the States of North-East Asia.
Recently, unfortunately, we have been seeing the reverse of this picture. In October and December, Washington and its allies responded to two and a half months of silence from Pyongyang by holding unscheduled and unprecedentedly large-scale manoeuvres and exercises on the borders of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as well as by introducing new unilateral sanctions and including it on its list of State sponsors of terrorism. All these steps make us wonder about the sincerity of all the declarations about the preferability of peaceful approaches to resolving the crisis regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
We call on the stakeholders to take practical measures to de-escalate the situation as soon as possible. In particular, it would be a good idea to skip the planned regular military exercises. It goes without saying that Pyongyang must also cease its nuclear-missile tests.
We are ready to cooperate more closely with all partners with a view to achieving a speedy settlement of the issues on the Korean peninsula through political and diplomatic means, the only possible path, and a mutually respectful dialogue. That is the aim behind Russia and China’s road map for a settlement.
We call on all parties involved in the preparation and holding of the Olympic Games in South Korea to refrain from any kind of provocation or ill-conceived initiatives during the period of preparation and holding of the Olympic Games in South Korea, and to use the time to find a way to reach a political and diplomatic settlement.
In conclusion, I would like to address Mr. Klimkin, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, who spoke here today, and to advise him that when he graces the Security Council with his presence, he should do it at meetings where his fairy-tales about what goes on in Ukraine will at least have some vague connection to the item on the Council’s agenda.