The UN has discussed the need to avoid armed conflict in North East Asia in a Security Council meeting convened on April 28. The chairs of the meeting, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, stated that it is the collective responsibility of the international community to avoid war with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, however, much of the onus also falls on North Korea itself.
Since January 2016, North Korea has intensified its weapons testing, which has included two nuclear tests, over 30 launches of ballistic missiles, and numerous other activities linked to weapons testing. These tests have consisted of short, medium and intermediate-range missiles, ballistic missiles fired from submarines, and the launching of a satellite into orbit. All of the above are in direct breach of numerous resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.
In the meeting, Mr Guterres voiced his concern that war in North East Asia could lead to a global destabilisation due to the fact that one-fifth of the world’s population, together with one-fifth of the world’s global domestic product, is based in that region. He also voiced his worry at the risk of escalation of hostilities with North Korea, stating that misunderstanding or miscalculation could rapidly lead to increased tensions or even hostilities, and further impede on the work of the international community in maintaining unity and finding a peaceful resolution.
On the other side, DPRK leader Kim Jong-un has stated that the development of nuclear arms is the policy of his country and that North Korea will become a “responsible nuclear-weapon State”. While the United Nations has said that North Korea will have to cease its weapons testing and comply with the UN Security Council resolutions if a dialogue is to resume, North Korea has given no indication that it will do so and comply with its ‘international obligations’.
Tensions and hostilities aside, North Korea is facing a vast humanitarian crisis, with between half and one-third of the country’s population, over 13 million people, in an extremely vulnerable situation, and in great need of aid. These people have little access to food, suffer from malnutrition, and have a lack of access to basic health and sanitation services. Most at risk are children under the age of five, pregnant women and the elderly. There are currently 13 UN agencies and non-government organisations operating in North Korea, who are presently asking for $114 million from the international community to help these people. Antònio Guterres also used the meeting to call on the DPKR to utilise the resources and mechanisms of the United Nations as a means of helping these 13 million vulnerable people.