By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The secretary general of the United Nations says the dispute over North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs is the world’s worst crisis “in years.”
“We have to hope that the seriousness of this threat puts us on the path of reason before it is too late,” Antonio Guterres said in an interview published on September 10 by the French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.
“It’s the most serious [crisis] we have had to face in years,” he said, adding that he was “very worried.”
“In the past, we have had wars that have been initiated after a well thought-out decision,” he said.
“But we also know that other conflicts have started through an escalation caused by sleepwalking.”
Guterres said it was important to get Pyongyang to end development of its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs and respect Security Council resolutions.
“We must also maintain the unity of the Security Council at all costs, because it is the only tool that can carry out a diplomatic initiative with a chance of success,” he said.
The United States on September 8 formally requested a vote of the Security Council on a U.S. resolution to impose severe new economic sanctions on North Korea over its latest nuclear test, despite resistance from China and Russia.
The resolution, which the U.S. mission to the UN said it wants the Security Council to vote on September 11, would impose an oil embargo on North Korea and ban its exports of textiles as well as the hiring of North Korean laborers abroad, mostly by Russia and China.
It would also impose an asset freeze and travel ban on leader Kim Jong Un.
U.S. officials have said they want tough sanctions to maximize pressure on Pyongyang to agree to negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear and missile tests.
UN diplomats said the latest U.S. proposals would be the toughest ever imposed on North Korea in punishment for its sixth and largest nuclear bomb test on September 3.
News agencies Reuters and AFP cited UN diplomatic sources saying they doubted either Beijing or Moscow, both of which have the power to veto UN council resolutions, would accept anything more stringent than a ban on imports of North Korean textiles.
Chinese officials have expressed fear that imposing an oil embargo could trigger instability in North Korea, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed concern that such stringent measures would hurt the nation’s impoverished citizens as much as they would punish the government.