The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday strongly condemned North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launches, and warned of the potential for a regional arms race spawned by the missile barrage.
Pyongyang fired four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan’s northwest coast on Monday, alarming South Korea and Japan and triggering the U.S. deployment of a sophisticated missile defense system to the Seoul government.
The launches also prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to reaffirm what the White House called the “ironclad commitment” of the United States to stand with Japan and South Korea in the face of Pyongyang’s repeated violations of U.N. resolutions.
The Security Council is set to meet Wednesday for a closed-door briefing on the latest North Korean launches, which coincided with the start of joint U.S. and South Korean annual defense exercises in South Korean territory.
Tuesday’s Security Council statement also expressed regret that Pyongyang is “diverting resources to the pursuit of ballistic missiles while Democratic People’s Republic of Korea citizens have great unmet needs.”
Pyongyang conducted two unauthorized nuclear test explosions last year and nearly two dozen rocket launches in a continuing push to expand its nuclear weapons and missile programs.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared in a speech on New Year’s Day that his country’s program to build inter-continental ballistic missiles had “reached its final stage.”
Pyongyang has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006, along with an arms embargo aimed at slowing the development of its banned nuclear and missile programs.
Since then, Washington and a vast majority of world governments have repeatedly demanded that the North denuclearize the Korean peninsula. However, Western leaders have yet to devise a plan that would either compel the North to cooperate or create incentives for it to do so.
China-sponsored talks between Pyongyang and a six-nation panel have been stalled since 2009, when the communist North pulled out of the negotiations. The North had carried out its first underground nuclear test explosion three years before the talks broke down.
Washington has since said the six-party talks could not resume until Kim’s regime in Pyongyang would recommit itself to halting all nuclear tests and scrapping its nuclear development program. That policy was agreed to during the administration of former President Barack Obama, and President Trump’s government has reaffirmed it.