(CNSNews.com) – Pyongyang on Thursday slammed a decision by the U.S. to convene a U.N. Security Council session focused on North Korea, saying the meeting – coming just weeks before Kim Jong Un’s deadline for a decision on the path ahead for deadlocked nuclear diplomacy – had merely “helped us make a definite decision on what way to choose.”
It was the strongest hint yet that the Stalinist regime may revert to new provocations in the new year, two years after suspending nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests and entering into summit diplomacy with President Trump.
At Wednesday’s meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft noted that North Korea has conducted more than two dozen short-range missile launches this year, and said that such launches – irrespectively of the missiles’ range – “undermine regional security and stability and are in clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.”
She expressed concern that the North Korean dictator may resume testing of long-range missile technology, either by putting a satellite into orbit or by test-firing “intercontinental ballistic missiles, which are designed to attack the continental United States with nuclear weapons.”
Craft stressed that any such action would be “deeply counterproductive to the shared objectives” discussed by Trump and Kim at their two summits.
“We hope that we do not find ourselves at an inflection point in the near future,” she told the council. “We trust that [North Korea] will turn away from further hostility and threats, and instead make a bold decision to engage with all of us.”
“If events prove otherwise, we, this Security Council, must all prepare to act accordingly.”
The reaction came from a foreign ministry spokesman in Pyongyang, who said in a statement the U.S. is continuing to escalate the provocation level, even as the “year-end time limit set by us is nearing.”
The spokesman slammed the U.S. for criticizing North Korea’s test-firing of short-range missiles – launches which he described as “measures for modernizing its weaponry for self-defense.”
If North Korea cannot take such measures for self-defense, then other countries that bolster their defense capabilities should also be taken to task, he said.
The spokesman said the notion that other countries are allowed to launch ICBMs but North Korea is not “sheds light on the nature of the bandit-like U.S., which seeks to disarm us completely.”
He warned that any “measure” taken against North Korea would invite “a countermeasure corresponding to anything that the U.S. opts for.”
“By holding the meeting, the U.S. did a foolish thing which will boomerang on it, and decisively helped us make a definite decision on what way to choose,” the spokesman concluded.
Three weeks after Trump’s inauguration, North Korea carried out the first of what would become more than a dozen medium- and long-range missile tests – including ICBM tests – during the course of 2017, a year also marked by highly charged rhetoric.
In September of that year, the regime also conducted a nuclear test – its sixth since 2006 and the most powerful yet.
But 2018 brought significant changes, with Kim holding two summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and Mike Pompeo paying two visits to Pyongyang, first as CIA director, then as secretary of state.
Working-level talks followed and last February the two met again, but the summit in Hanoi, Vietnam ended abruptly with little sign of progress.
In a subsequent speech, Kim said he but would give the U.S. until the end of 2019 to make a “bold decision” showing a willingness to exchange its current approach for a new one.
Trump and Kim then met again in June, for discussions in the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas. More working-level talks have taken place since, most recently in Sweden in October, but have stalled since.
Since the flurry of launches through 2017, the regime has conducted no further long-range ballistic missile or nuclear tests.
Since May of this year, however, it has carried out at least 13 launches involving short-range projectiles. They included, last October, the firing of a missile designed to be launched from a submarine, although launched from a submerged barge for the purposes of the test.
As Craft alluded to in New York on Wednesday, nine resolutions passed by the Security Council since 2006 call for North Korea to stop “all” ballistic missile activities.
According to a Government Accountability Office report on the Missile Defense Agency, released this week, North Korea’s missile program has undergone “an unprecedented pace of testing that has shown steady progress.” The report lists one submarine-launched, four short- and medium-range, two intermediate-range, and four intercontinental ballistic missiles.