Minutes before North Korea’s representative addressed the United Nations General Assembly Monday, South Korea’s military chiefs said Pyongyang had fired an “unidentified projectile” into the Sea of Japan.
North Korea’s U.N. ambassador did not mention the incident during his address on the final day of the annual debate, which draws world leaders to New York.
Instead, Kim Song spoke about the bad relations between Pyongyang and Washington, attributing them to the United States’ “anachronistic hostile policy” toward North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, for the past 70 years and the fact that the Korean War has never officially ended.
“The possible outbreak of a new war on the Korean Peninsula is contained not because of the U.S.’s mercy on the DPRK,” Ambassador Kim added, using the abbreviation for his country’s official name the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “It is because our state is growing reliable deterrent that can control the hostile forces in their attempts for military invasion.”
He suggested that if the U.S. permanently ends its joint military exercises with South Korea and withdraws its “hostile policy” in a “bold and complete manner,” Pyongyang is prepared to respond “willingly.”
“But it is our judgment that there is no prospect at the present stage for the U.S. to really withdraw its hostile policy towards the DPRK,” he added.
He also referred to the division of the Korean Peninsula and the fact that the two Koreas separately joined the United Nations 30 years ago as a “tragedy.”
Afghanistan did not address the General Assembly on Monday, in the wake of the Taliban takeover and potential competing claims of representation at the world body.
A U.N. spokesperson said they were informed Saturday by email that Afghan Ambassador Ghulam Isaczai was withdrawing from Monday’s debate. Isaczai was appointed by the previous government of Ashraf Ghani but still holds the country’s U.N. accreditation.
Last week, the Taliban sent a letter to the U.N. saying they wanted to participate in the annual gathering. They also said Isaczai was “ousted” as Afghanistan’s ambassador, and they were nominating Mohammad Suhail Shaheen to replace him.
The letter has been forwarded to the General Assembly committee that handles the accreditation of ambassadors, but the panel is unlikely to meet until October or November.
Myanmar also informed the U.N. several days ago that it would not address the annual gathering.
In February, the military seized power in a coup and detained most of the national unity government. The junta has sought to replace Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun with one of its own officials, but it will also have to go to the credentials committee with its request.
Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, made his U.N. debut Monday. While he argued the hard-line position on why Iran is a threat to Israel’s security, his calm but urgent tone drew a sharp contrast to his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bennett did not touch on Iran until 13 minutes into his speech. And he never mentioned the Palestinians. He spoke first of Israel’s pioneering efforts vaccinating its population against COVID-19. Israeli data have helped other governments develop their own vaccination strategies.
“We pioneered the booster shot,” Bennett said of the third jab of certain vaccines that scientists say can offer better protection from the virus’s variants.
“Two months in, I can report that it works: With a third dose, you’re seven times more protected than with two doses, and 40 times more protected than without any
vaccine,” he said. “As a result, Israel is on course to escape the fourth wave
without a lockdown, without further harm to our economy.”
On regional foe Iran, Bennett warned Tehran has made “swarms” of killer drones operational.
“They plan to blanket the skies of the Middle East with this lethal force,” Bennett said. He said Tehran has already used the drones — called the Shahed-136 — to attack Saudi Arabia, U.S. targets in Iraq and civilian ships at sea.
On the nuclear issue, he said Iran is violating International Atomic Energy Agency safeguard agreements, including enriching uranium to one step below nuclear weapons grade.
“Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment — and so has our tolerance,” the Israeli prime minister warned. “Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning.”
He repeated Israel’s long-standing pledge not to let Iran acquire a nuclear weapon.
Iran maintains that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 150 presidents and prime ministers traveled to New York for the annual gathering. The U.N. and New York City had numerous health protocols in place to help keep the event safe, including positioning a testing and vaccination van outside the complex. The U.N. said that 93 visitors got vaccinated and more than 800 took advantage of the free coronavirus tests.
At least one delegation reported an outbreak, however.
Brazilian media reported that at last count, at least four members of President Jair Bolsonaro’s delegation, including his son, Eduardo, who is a legislator, and the health minister, had tested positive for COVID-19 while in New York.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price, who also attended several meetings last week on the sidelines of the General Assembly, announced Monday that despite being vaccinated, he had tested positive for COVID-19 and would quarantine.