The UN Security Council failed to adopt new US-backed sanctions on North Korea on Thursday due to opposition from China and Russia.
The council's 13 other members voted in favor of the new economic penalties in response to Pyongyang's ballistic missile and nuclear tests. But China and Russia's statuses as permanent council members mean their opposition is an effective veto of the draft resolution.
The vote came one day after North Korea carried out a series of ballistic missile tests, including of one believed to be its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The North is prohibited from conducting ballistic missile and nuclear tests under successive council resolutions, but it has over the past year conducted several tests in defiance of the international community.
The sanctions envisioned in the draft text would have targeted North Korea's tobacco and manufactured tobacco substitutes as well as mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation.
It warned of "further significant measures in the event of a further DPRK intercontinental ballistic missile launch or any other launch contributing to the development of a ballistic missile system or technology capable of such ranges or nuclear test."
Speaking ahead of the vote, the US implored council members in its effort to pressure the North against future tests, saying "we cannot allow the DPRK to normalize these unlawful and destabilizing actions nor let the DPRK divide the Security Council and exhaust our capacity to respond decisively."
"The DPRK has now conducted six ICBM tests without any response from the Security Council, despite the commitment the council made in Resolution 2397 to take further measures in the event of an additional ICBM launch," said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US's UN envoy, referring to North Korea.
"Its ICBM launches in recent months have tested the will and the integrity of this council to carry out its commitments. Thus far, we have not. We cannot let this become the new norm. We cannot tolerate such dangerous and threatening behavior," she added.
With the latest launches, North Korea has fired 17 missiles since the beginning of this year, all of which run afoul of existing UN Security Council resolutions. The US and its allies have warned that it is also preparing for a nuclear test, which would be the North's first since 2017.
Explaining its veto, China said it believes that "dialogue and negotiations are the only viable way to resolve the problem."
"Reliance on sanctions will not help to resolve the issue," said China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun. "Security Council sanctions are a means, not an end."
Those sentiments were echoed by Russia, which cited the "ineffectiveness and the inhumanity of further strengthening the sanctions pressure on Pyongyang."