UN experts to probe North Korea weapons test

Published March 27, 2021, 10:31 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

A UN sanctions committee focused on nuclear-armed North Korea has asked its experts to investigate Pyongyang’s launch of missiles on Thursday, diplomats said.

A man watches a television screen at Suseo railway station in Seoul on March 26, 2021, showing news footage of North Korea’s latest tactical guided projectile test. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

The panel is composed of the same 15 countries that sit on the Security Council. The request to the experts was made Friday in a closed door meeting of the committee.

North Korea launched two weapons from its east coast Thursday, with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga calling them ballistic missiles.

It was North Korea’s first substantive provocation since Joe Biden took power as US president in January.

The sanctions committee met after an urgent request made Thursday by the United States.

Pyongyang is under multiple international sanctions over its weapons programs, with UN Security Council resolutions banning it from developing ballistic missiles.

“An outcome of the 1718 committee was for the UN panel of experts to investigate the missile launches as a first step,” one diplomat said, referring to the UN North Korea sanctions panel.

“We are looking at what is possible,” another diplomat said about prospects for the Security Council to hold a meeting on the latest missile launch.

There was “a general sense of concern” during the meeting of the sanctions committee, this diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

The Security Council voted unanimously Friday, diplomats said, to extend until April 30, 2022 the mandate of UN experts overseeing the different sets of sanctions imposed against North Korea over its weapons programs.

They were approved in recent years at the initiative of the US.

The new resolution passed Friday asks the experts group to present an interim report by August 3 and a full and final report by January 28, 2022.

The renewal of the mandate of the experts was not linked to the latest missile launches. It was about to expire anyway.

The vote coincided with this latest flare-up in tensions, and was supported by both Russia and China, which pushed last year for an easing of sanctions against North Korea.

The sanctions are aimed at pressing North Korea to halt its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.

Among other punishment, they limit North Korean imports of oil and its exports of coal, textiles and fish.