North Korea’s missile program is progressing faster than expected, South Korea’s defense minister said on Tuesday, after the UN Security Council demanded the North halt all nuclear and ballistic missile tests and condemned Sunday’s test-launch. Han Min-koo told South Korea’s parliament the test-launch had been detected by the controversial U.S. THAAD anti-missile system, whose deployment in the South has infuriated China. The reclusive North, which has defied all calls to rein in its weapons programs, even from its lone major ally, China, said the missile test was a legitimate defense against U.S. hostility.
Iran’s Ambassador to the UN Gholamali Khoshroo said that comments made by Saudi Arabian Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman are “unveiled threat” against Iran and violation of the UN Charter. Khoshroo’s remarks came in a protest letter to the UN Security Council and to Secretary General António Guterres. Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the deputy crown prince, said in a televised interview aired on Tuesday that “we won’t wait for the battle to be in Saudi Arabia. Instead, we’ll work so that the battle is for them in Iran”. Following is full text of Khoshroo’s letter published by IRNA: Upon instructions from my Government, I wish to bring to your attention the recent unlawful and inflammatory statement made by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — who is also the Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia. On 2 May 2017, Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated, ‘We will work so that the battle is on their side, inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia.’ While categorically rejecting the baseless allegations against my country, I wish to underline that his statement reflects an unveiled threat against the Islamic Republic of Iran, in violation of Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, as well as a clear admission of the long-known complicity of the Saudi regime in acts of terror and violence inside Iran, the latest of which resulted in the murder of 9 Iranian border guards, by the Saudi-financed armed bands. This blatant threat and admission is being made by a regime with a long record of supporting aggression and using terrorist and extremist groups for its short-sighted and dangerous ambitions in the region and beyond.
The US Secretary of State said Wednesday that the country is ready to increase pressure on North Korea through additional penalties, secondary sanctions and a tighter implementation of UN resolutions. The US is ready to ramp up pressure against North Korea through additional penalties, secondary sanctions and a tighter implementation of UN resolutions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday, adding “a lot of work” is left to maximize its strategy. “So it’s a pressure campaign that has a knob on it. I’d say we’re at about dial setting five or six right now, with a strong call of countries all over the world to fully implement the UN Security Council resolutions regarding sanctions, because no one has ever fully implemented those”, Tillerson said at a meeting with State Department employees.
The United States told Russia at the United Nations on Wednesday that is it isolating itself by continuing to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Britain said its scientists found sarin was used in a deadly toxic gas attack on Syrian civilians last week. Russia is set to block a push by Western powers at the United Nations later on Wednesday to bolster support for international inquiries into the April 4 toxic gas attack in Syria. It will be Moscow’s eighth veto in support of the Assad government since the Syrian war began six years ago. “To my colleagues from Russia – you are isolating yourselves from the international community every time one of Assad’s planes drop another barrel bomb on civilians and every time Assad tries to starve another community to death”, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, told the U.N. Security Council.
UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura called for holding new round of UN-backed intra-Syrian talks in Geneva on March 23. “Talks will be indirect and will focus on governance, constitutional process, elections and counter-terrorism and there may also be discussions on reconstruction”, De Mistura added. The UN Envoy pointed out that he briefed the UN Security Council, in a closed door meeting, on the outcomes of the fourth round of the intra-Syrian dialogue, recently held in Geneva, calling on the participants in Astana and the sponsoring sides to enhance the cessation of hostilities in Syria.
Syria peace talks due to start this week in Geneva are based on the broad mandate of a U.N. resolution that asks the U.N. mediator to hold talks on a “political transition process”, an official involved in the talks said on Tuesday. Michael Contet, chief of staff of Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, told a regular U.N. briefing that de Mistura was putting the final touches to arrangements for the talks. “The invitations as well as the substantive agenda for the negotiations are all based on the wide scope of Security Council resolutions, in particular (U.N. Security Council Resolution) 2254, which is our main guidance in this process”.
The United States abstained from the vote, allowing the measure to pass by a vote of 14 in favor in the 15-member council. The resolution had been put forward for a vote on Friday by New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal – one day after Egypt withdrew it under pressure from Israel and US President-elect Donald Trump. Amid widespread international support to work towards bringing an end to the controversial policy of building settlements, the resolution is reportedly near-impossible for the Trump administration to reverse. While the resolution does not call for imposing sanctions on Israel if it fails to comply, it could significantly weaken Israel’s lobbying and negotiating power in future peace talks.