UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday called North Korea’s defiant nuclear programme the “most serious crisis” the world faces and appealed to the fractured Security Council to unite to meet the threat.
Speaking to reporters here, he warned that heated rhetoric could worsen the crisis and that even taking one step at a time as the crisis escalates could incrementally lead to a war situation before the world realises it and the international community had to act to avoid this.
Any talk of a military solution is deeply disturbing, he said.
At an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Monday, US Permanent Representative Nikki Haley had warned that North Korea was “begging for war” and while Washington did not want war, it would take steps to defend its territory.
Guterres said that he backed the actions taken so far by the Security Council on the North Korean nuclear and missile programmes but further action was needed. “Unity of the Security Council is crucial,” he added.
Security Council action on North Korea has been blocked by China, which he did not name. After the hydrogen bomb test by Pyongyang on Sunday, the emergency meeting of the Security Council convened at the request of the US and four other countries adjourned without taking any action because of a lack of consensus.
Last month, North Korea had tested intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching major US cities and sent a missile over Japan.
As the world leaders prepares the meet here for the General Assembly summit next week, they confront three threats, and the “most serious crisis” is the North Korea’s nuclear programme carried out “in defiance of the Security Council and the international community”, Guterres said.
He listed two other “threats” that the world leaders will be facing: Sectarianism and climate change.
He cited the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar as an example of the sectarian threats to world order.
While condemning the attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, he denoucned the actions by the Myanmar government against the Rohingya and Muslims.
He said that he was asking the Security Council to take up the issue.
The actions by the Myanmar security forces against the Rohingya was only increasing the risk of radicalisation, he said.
He asked the Myanmar government to give it Muslim population citizenship, and pending that at least right to employment and freedom of movement.
On climate change, he cited the natural calamities gathering force resulting in huge damages to Texas in the US, India, and other countries.
The UN was ready to help with relief efforts, but the world should continue to take steps to both fight climate change and mitigate its effect.
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected])