- As Yemen air strikes kill al-Qaeda fighters, says US
The United Nations security council has strongly condemned North Korea’s latest launch of three ballistic missiles, and threatened “further significant measures” if the Pyongyang regime continued its missile and nuclear weapons development work.
Diplomats at the UN said that this latest rebuke of North Korea was agreed unusually quickly, reflecting China’s anger at the missile launch on Monday as President Xi Jinping was hosting the G20 summit in Hangzhou.
Despite the bluntly worded statement, describing North Korea’s “flagrant disregard” of its demands, there are no immediate plans to begin discussions on new sanctions. The focus will instead be on fuller implementation of the last round of sanctions imposed in March. The US and its regional allies, South Korea and Japan – those most immediately threatened by Pyongyang’s military capabilities – are particularly keen to see China enforcing sanctions more robustly.
“We are going to work diligently together with the most recent UN sanctions that are already placing North Korea under the most intense sanctions regime ever,” Barack Obama said in Laos after a meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Park Geun-hye.
“We’re going to work together to make sure that we’re closing loopholes and making them even more effective. President Park and I agreed that the entire international community needs to implement these sanctions fully and hold North Korea accountable.”
“Taking into consideration the importance of China’s role in effective implementation of sanctions and the resolution process of the North Korean nuclear issue, our two countries have agreed to continue to communicate with China through various channels,” Park said.
Analysts pointed to North Korea’s defiant launch as a reflection of both US and China’s diminished leverage over the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
“The [US] administration talk about turning up the volume of its message, which seemed to me a bit ironic as Kim Jong-un is always photographed at these missile launches with earplugs. They can turn up the volume but he can’t hear them for the sound of launching missiles,” said Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Non-Proliferation Programme at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in California.
“They just don’t care what the Chinese say any more, so the industrial and political constraints are off.”
Lewis said the launch of the missiles, which landed in the sea off Japan, demonstrated North Korea’s increasing prowess at missile manufacturing.
“They’re getting better at it. They collaborate with the Russians and the Egyptians and the Iranians, but they can build this stuff on their own too,” he said. “Testing missiles simultaneously shows you can overwhelm a missile defence system.”
Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, said the missiles launched on Monday appeared to be modified Scuds, with the diameter widened to a metre, and with the casing made of aluminium instead of steel. Both modifications gave the missiles greater range, said Elleman.
The security council issued a previous warning to Pyongyang only 11 days ago, after the North Koreans launched a new solid-fuel submarine-launched missile, which Elleman described as a major technical leap.
“Monday’s launch is minor in significance compared to the submarine-launched missile,” he said. “With solid-fuel motors of that size, if they can do that on their own, they can tailor a missile to whatever strategic mission they want.”
In the meantime, the US military says it has killed 13 members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in air strikes in Yemen.
US Central Command said in a statement that three air strikes were carried out between 24 August and 4 September in Shabwah governorate in central Yemen.
The statement did not say how the strikes were carried out or give the identities of those killed.
AQAP has taken advantage of Yemen’s civil war to seize territory.
The US says the group remains a significant threat to the region, the United States and beyond.
“Strikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen put consistent pressure on the terrorist network and prevent them from plotting and executing attacks against US persons, our homeland and allies,” the US statement said.
Yemen is in the grip of a conflict between its Saudi-backed government and rebels that the UN says has left 6,600 people dead.
Some 2.5 million Yemenis have also been displaced.
Guardian with additional report from BBC