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Korean Peninsula: Conflict Prevention 'Our Collective Priority' But 'the Onus Is on the DPRK

By António Guterres

Following are excerpts from UN Secretary-General António Guterres' remarks to the Security Council on Non-Proliferation/DPRK on April 28, 2017. – The Editor

NEW YORK (IDN) - The situation on the Korean Peninsula is one of the longest-standing and most serious issues before the United Nations. The Security Council first adopted a resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) nuclear issue in 1993, when it urged the DPRK not to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Twenty-four years later, and despite extensive efforts, the challenge has defied resolution.

In response to the DPRK’s accelerated nuclear and ballistic missile activities, the Security Council has adopted two sanctions resolutions and met eleven times in emergency consultations since January 2016.

During this period, the DPRK conducted two nuclear tests, more than 30 launches using ballistic missile technology, and various other activities relating to the nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. Its launches using ballistic missile technology have included tests of short-, medium-, intermediate-range and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, as well as the placement of a satellite in orbit.

These tests and launches are clear violations of Security Council resolutions.  The absence of coordination and notifications in advance of these launches, other than the space launch on 7 February 2016, is also contrary to internationally accepted regulations and standards adopted by the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization. Aircraft and ships have been prevented from planning their routes to steer clear of these hazardous activities. And adjacent States have been prevented from promulgating danger, restricted or prohibited areas in their areas of responsibility.

The International Atomic Energy Agency remains unable to access the DPRK to verify the status of its nuclear programme. The Agency continues to monitor developments through satellite imagery, and has observed signatures consistent with the operation of the plutonium production reactor and the reported centrifuge enrichment facility. Commercial satellite imagery analysis has also indicated continued activity of the DPRK’s nuclear test site, which is believed to be maintained in a state of readiness to conduct additional nuclear test explosions.

The DPRK has increasingly stressed the importance of nuclear deterrence in its military doctrine. At the Seventh Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea in March 2016, DPRK leader Kim Jong Un described the country as a “responsible nuclear-weapon State”.

More recently, in a statement in the United Nations Disarmament Commission on 3 April 2017, while reaffirming its support for comprehensive and complete nuclear disarmament, the DPRK stated that “going nuclear armed is the policy of our state”.

The DPRK is the only country to have conducted nuclear tests this century. We must assume that, with each test or launch, the DPRK continues to make technological advances in its pursuit of a military nuclear capability.

I condemn in the strongest terms the DPRK’s repeated violations of the relevant Security Council resolutions. The DPRK’s continued pursuit of its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes, in defiance of repeated demands by the Security Council to cease such activities, clearly threatens regional and international security and seriously undermines international disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.

Need to avoid miscalculation and misunderstanding

I am alarmed by the risk of a military escalation in the region, including by miscalculation or misunderstanding. I am particularly concerned by the possibility that efforts to offset the destabilizing activities of the DPRK could also result in increased arms competition and tensions, further impeding the ability of the international community to maintain unity and achieve a peaceful solution.

The onus is on the DPRK to comply with its international obligations. At the same time, the international community must also step up its efforts to manage and reduce tensions.

The absence of communication channels with the DPRK could be dangerous. Armed conflict in Northeast Asia, which is home to one fifth of the world’s people and gross domestic product, would have global implications.

We need to avoid miscalculation and misunderstanding. We need to act now to prevent conflict and achieve sustainable peace.

This means the DPRK refraining from further testing, complying with the relevant Security Council resolutions, and exploring the resumption of dialogue.

This means reopening and strengthening communication channels, particularly military to military, to lower the risk of miscalculation or misunderstanding.

This means all Member States implementing relevant Security Council resolutions.

From targeted sanctions to communication channels

I have taken note of the Security Council’s commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation; of efforts by Council members, as well as other States, to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue; and of the importance the Council has placed on working to reduce tensions. The Council has important tools at its disposal, from targeted sanctions to communication channels.

As Secretary-General, I am committed to seeking peaceful and political solutions. I stand ready to assist in any way possible. I would welcome guidance and assistance from the Security Council in this regard.

I welcome the Council’s understanding of the importance of the humanitarian imperatives in the present situation.

On 21 March, we released the latest DPRK Needs and Priorities document. For this year, 13 United Nations agencies and international NGOs operating in the DPRK are calling for $114 million to meet the urgent needs of 13 million especially vulnerable people -- half the country’s population. The people of the DPRK need our generosity and help.

I also call on the DPRK authorities to engage with United Nations human rights mechanisms and with the international community to address the grave human rights situation and improve the living conditions of its people. I therefore welcome the visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities to the DPRK next week. As we discussed in this chamber on 18 April, improvement in human rights will not only protect the livelihoods and dignity of people in the DPRK, but also promote long-term security and stability in the region and beyond.

I would like to conclude by underlining our collective priority for conflict prevention. We must remain committed to pursuing peaceful and diplomatic paths for a peaceful and denuclearized Korean Peninsula. [IDN-InDepthNews – 29 April 2017]

Photo: Secretary-General António Guterres (left) addresses the Security Council ministerial-level meeting on the nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). At right is Rex W. Tillerson, U.S. Secretary of State and President of the Security Council for April. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate

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