South Korea is preparing to play a bigger role on the international stage as it aims to secure a seat on the United Nations Security Council at an election Tuesday, an opportunity for Seoul to serve as a two-year term member on the UN’s most powerful body.
Running unopposed, the South is expected to get approval from two-thirds of the General Assembly, ending the country’s 10-year hiatus from the 15-member body that includes five permanent members with veto power: the US, UK, France, Russia and China.
The annual election, which selects countries to replace five member states each year, comes at a time when South Korea is stepping up efforts to put checks on North Korea -- a country still defying international sanctions on its nuclear and missile programs. Last week, Pyongyang launched what it claims was a military satellite, amid speculation that the launch could be a cover for missile tests.
UN Security Council resolutions ban the North from using such ballistic missile technology. But Pyongyang, which has hinted at a second launch following Wednesday’s failed attempt, lashed out at the International Maritime Organization, a UN agency responsible for ship safety.
In a dispatch by the North’s Korean Central News Agency on Sunday, the country said the IMO could no longer function as an independent group because the US has too much sway over it. Following the North’s launch, the group adopted a resolution condemning the failed test because it threatens international shipping.
“The fact that the IMO passed such a resolution for the first time for a single country means the group has strayed from its mission and become politicized,” the dispatch said, citing a North Korean expert on international relations.
North Korea will no longer inform the IMO of any upcoming launches, the expert noted, saying the resolution has rendered such a courtesy unnecessary. Pyongyang, like any other countries, has the right to conduct tests it sees fit because they are meant for self-defense, the expert added. The North says it needs spy satellites to monitor US military activities.
South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy on North Korea, Kim Gunn, and his US and Japanese counterparts said that any launches using ballistic missile technology are a violation of UN sanctions and that the three partners that have been working on the North’s disarmament will respond firmly to Pyongyang’s repeated attempts to retry such tests.
At the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Friday, an annual summit on security, Kim underscored the need to improve oversight on North Korea’s overseas workers and its illegal cyber activities -- all used to bankroll the country's nuclear and missile programs by bypassing international sanctions.
The same day, the UN Security Council failed to condemn North Korea’s attempted launch because Russia and China dismissed the US call, saying Seoul and Washington are to blame for escalating inter-Korean tensions with their regular military drills. Pyongyang calls them a rehearsal for invasion, while Seoul labels them a test for readiness.