South Korea has questioned the suitability of North Korea for membership at the United Nations (UN), drawing attention to Pyongyang’s repeated violations of UN Security Council resolutions.
Speaking to the Associated Press on Tuesday, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said, “I think all members of the UN have to ask themselves whether North Korea is really qualified as a member of the UN.”
His comments came on the sidelines of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York, where world leaders have gathered for the event.
The remarks also came less than two weeks after Pyongyang carried out a nuclear warhead explosion — its fifth — on September 9. Authorities in Seoul at the time described it as the North’s biggest nuclear test ever.
In his Tuesday remarks, Yun described the test as a “Hiroshima-sized explosion,” warning that the North was posing an “existential threat” to its southern neighbor.
“This latest test is a very sobering reminder (that) the danger and the threat from North Korea is now reaching a very, very dangerous stage. For many years we have been talking about the development of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles, and now we may be reaching a stage where we have to worry about the deployment of nuclear-tipped missiles,” Yun said.
He further expressed concern about the North’s alleged acceleration in accumulation of fissile material for the purpose of mass producing nuclear bombs.
The South Korean foreign minister further said the North is a “serial offender” and the UN Security Council, as the world body’s top decision-making body, needs to plug loopholes in existing sanctions and further impose new tough measures in response to Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test.
Russia had earlier urged the international community to find more “creative” ways to respond to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions than merely imposing sanctions on the country.
China, as the North’s main trade partner, is, however, highly critical of imposing sanctions and tougher measures on the North but is also concerned about Pyongyang’s nuclear activities. Moscow and Beijing are two veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council.
The UN and the West have so far imposed a raft of crippling sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear and missile activities.
The two Koreas have been hostile to each other since the end of their 1950-1953 war, known as the Korean War. Since then, the peninsula has been locked in a cycle of military rhetoric.
Pyongyang has pledged to develop a nuclear arsenal in a bid to protect itself from the US military, which occasionally deploys nuclear-powered warships and aircraft capable of carrying atomic weapons in the region.
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 command in South Korea.