South Korea questions ‘serial offender’ N. Korea’s UN membership

In a fresh sign of defiance, Kim oversaw a ground test of a new rocket engine and ordered a satellite launch preparation

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North Korea’s repeated flouting of UN Security Council resolutions by conducting nuclear and missile tests calls into question its suitability for membership of the world body, South Korea’s top diplomat has said.

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se stopped short of calling for Pyongyang’s expulsion from the UN but said its authoritarian government was violating the terms under which both the Koreas had been admitted 25 years ago. He said the North had “broken records” in its violation of global norms: It is the only nation to have conducted nuclear tests in the 21st century and is already subject to five Security Council resolutions over its weapons testing.

“I think all members of the UN have to ask themselves whether North Korea is really qualified as a member of the UN,” Yun said in an interview late Tuesday said on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at its headquarters in New York.

Calling North Korea a “serial offender,” he said the Security Council, the UN’s top decision-making body, needs to close loopholes in existing sanctions and impose tough new measures in response to the North’s fifth and most recent atomic test. He said that the “Hiroshima-sized explosion” Sept. 9 made clear that Pyongyang poses an “existential threat” to its US-allied southern neighbor and a growing menace to the world.

“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.

“If that day comes, that’s not just a threat to South Koreans or to Japanese, it’s a threat to the United States and almost all members of the international community,” Yun said. He described the ongoing negotiations over a new Security Council resolution as a “last chance … to check this fanatic behavior” of young leader Kim Jong Un.

In a fresh sign of defiance, Kim oversaw a ground test of a new rocket engine and ordered a satellite launch preparation, North Korean state media said Tuesday, an indication the country might soon conduct a prohibited long-range rocket launch — possibly to coincide with the 71st founding anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party, which falls Oct. 10. Commercial satellite imagery confirmed activity consistent with preparations for such an engine test.

The United Nations and others view the North’s space launch development project as a cover for tests of missile technology, as ballistic missiles and rockets in satellite launches share similar bodies, engines and other technology. The North has conducted more than 20 launches of various types of missile this year. Yun also voiced concern that the North was accelerating its accumulation of fissile material with a view to mass producing nuclear bombs.

North Korea has said it needs nuclear weapons and missiles to cope with US military threats. About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.