China has blocked a US-drafted UN Security Council statement condemning North Korea over its latest missile test.
The 15-member council met for an emergency closed-door meeting on Wednesday, after the North launched two intermediate-range missiles earlier in the day.
One of the projectiles reportedly exploded shortly after takeoff and the second landed in the Sea of Japan some 250 kilometers (155 miles) off the country’s northern coast.
During the meeting, the US was expected to circulate a draft council statement in condemnation of the launch but faced resistance from China.
"Nothing should be done to exacerbate tension on the Korean Peninsula," said China's UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi, adding, "There is a real risk. I think we need to work responsibly."
Following the meeting, US Ambassador Samantha Power (seen bellow) referred to the launch as "another grave threat to international peace and security," and called for a "strong, swift response from the Security Council.”
"This missile landed incredibly close to Japan and this program poses a threat that goes well beyond any particular country," she said.
Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho also condemned the launches, while stressing its “importance and gravity.”
"I stressed that this is a totally unacceptable action on the part of DPRK (North Korea). The missile launched landed within Japan's EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone). There was no warning whatsoever. We see it as a grave violation of certainly the resolutions of the Security Council," the Japanese envoy said.
Britain's Deputy Ambassador Peter Wilson warned that the council should take the launch “extremely seriously”, adding that it was "a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions" that ban Pyongyang's development of missile technology.
Earlier, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced that the global body was "deeply troubled by the latest test-firing of missiles... one of which reportedly landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone."
"Such actions seriously undermine regional peace and stability," he added.
Tensions have been flaring in the region since January, when North Korea said it had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb, its fourth nuclear test, and vowed to build up its nuclear program as deterrence against potential aggression from the US and its regional allies.
A month later, Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket, which it said placed an earth observation satellite into orbit. However, Washington and Seoul denounced it as a cover for an intercontinental ballistic missile test.
North Korea says it will not give up on its nuclear deterrence unless Washington ends its hostile policy toward Pyongyang and dissolves the US-led UN command in South Korea. There are around 3,000 US troops permanently stationed in South Korea.