December 9, 2019 / 6:41 PM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 2-U.S. to ask U.N. to discuss possible "escalatory" provocation by North Korea

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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 9 (Reuters) - The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council this week to discuss North Korea’s recent missile launches and the the possibility of an “escalatory” provocation, a State Department official said on Monday.

It was not immediately clear when such a meeting would take place or if it would be public. At least eight countries on the 15-member Security Council had been pushing for a meeting on human rights abuses in North Korea, but the final decision rested with Washington, diplomats said.

“The State Department is instructing the U.S. Mission to the United Nations to propose to have the U.N. Security Council discussion on North Korea this week include a comprehensive update on recent developments on the Korean Peninsula, including recent missile launches and the possibility of an escalatory DPRK provocation,” the U.S. official said.

North Korea’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

A meeting would come amid increasing tensions between Washington and Pyongyang after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gave U.S. President Donald Trump until the end of the year to show more flexibility in talks that Washington hopes will lead North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs.

Kim’s deadline has raised concerns among some diplomats that North Korea could next year resume nuclear and long-range missile testing that has been suspended since 2017. Trump has held up the suspension as a key achievement of his North Korea engagement.

North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Song, said on Saturday that denuclearization was off the negotiating table with the United States and lengthy talks with Washington were not needed.

His remarks and a statement by North Korea that it had carried out a “successful test of great significance” at its Sohae satellite launch site prompted Trump to warn on Sunday that Kim risks losing “everything” if he resumes hostility and that his country must denuclearize.

The U.N. Security Council has met behind closed doors several times over the past couple of months, at the request of European members, over missile launches conducted by North Korea. Following a meeting last week, the European states condemned Pyongyang’s “provocative actions.”

“The DPRK has conducted 13 sets of ballistic missile launches since May and continued to operate its nuclear program,” Britain, France, Poland, Belgium and Germany said in a statement, urging Pyongyang to engage in meaningful talks with the United States on denuclearization.

The United States is president of the U.N. Security Council for December. U.N. Security Council ambassadors had lunch with Trump in Washington last week.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft said of the council’s discussion about North Korea during the lunch with Trump: “What we all agree upon is that we are very concerned about any more ballistic missile launches.” (Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Franklin Paul and Nick Macfie)

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