UNITED NATIONS - The United States warned North Korea Wednesday that its numerous ballistic missile tests risk "closing the door" to a deal with Washington.
"These ballistic missile tests, no matter their range, undermine regional security and stability and are in clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions," Ambassador Kelly Craft told a meeting of the council on North Korea's proliferation efforts. "These actions also risk closing the door on this opportunity to find a better way for the future."
Craft urged Pyongyang not to escalate hostilities with Washington, and dismissed its end-of-year deadline for action.
"Let me be clear: The United States and the Security Council have a goal, not a deadline," Craft said.
Pyongyang has become increasingly impatient with Washington, issuing a wave of statements in the past two weeks demanding action before the end of the year or threatening to take a "new path."
Last week, North Korea's vice foreign minister for U.S. affairs, Ri Thae Song, warned that his government would have a "Christmas gift" for the United States, and added ominously that it would be "entirely up to the U.S." what that present would be.
"Missile and nuclear testing will not bring the DPRK greater security," Craft said, using the abbreviation for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "It will not bring the DPRK or the region greater stability.It will not help the DPRK achieve the economic opportunities it seeks."
Craft said it would instead complicate negotiations to agree to a deal addressing North Korea's security concerns and benefiting it economically. She urged North Korea to make the "difficult but bold" decision to work with the United States, saying Washington is willing to be "flexible" in how it approaches resolving the denuclearization issue.
"We remain ready to take actions in parallel, and to simultaneously take concrete steps towards this agreement," Craft said.
But if the DPRK continues in the wrong direction, Craft said the Security Council "must all be prepared to act accordingly."
'Very important' test
North Korea has carried out 13 ballistic missile tests this year. On Saturday, it conducted what it said was a "very important" test at the Sohae satellite launching ground near its border with China.
China's ambassador, Zhang Jun, urged Washington and Pyongyang to "demonstrate flexibility and good will," and "meet halfway" to restart stalled talks quickly to prevent the process "derailing or backpedaling."
China and Russia both urged easing U.N. sanctions imposed on North Korea as a confidence-building measure. But several council members did not agree. British Ambassador Karen Pierce said sanctions should remain in place until North Korea makes real steps toward denuclearization.
"Further breaches of Security Council resolutions - whether ballistic missiles, space launch vehicles or nuclear tests - will only harden the resolve of the council," she warned.
Wednesday's meeting was initially supposed to take place on Dec. 10, which is International Human Rights Day, and focus on the country's deplorable rights situation. Instead, the United States this week called for a more "comprehensive" review of recent developments on the peninsula, "including recent missile launches and the possibility of an escalatory DPRK provocation."