By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -The United States proposed on Monday that the U.N. Security Council condemn North Korea's ballistic missile launches and encourage Pyongyang to engage in diplomacy, warning that the 15-member body's failure to respond had become dangerous.
China and Russia oppose any further action by the Security Council, arguing that putting further pressure on North Korea would not be constructive. The pair vetoed a U.S.-led push to impose more U.N. sanctions on North Korea in May last year.
"The reality is that those who shield the DPRK (North Korea) from the consequences of its escalatory missile tests put the Asian region and entire world at risk of conflict," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
"The council's lack of action is worse than shameful. It is dangerous," she told the Security Council, proposing that it adopt a formal presidential statement - one step below a resolution - to condemn North Korea's action and urge diplomacy.
Such statements have to be agreed by consensus. The last time the council took action on North Korea was when it adopted a resolution to strengthen sanctions in December 2017 over Pyongyang's ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes.
China's Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dai Bing said repeated council meetings and calls for more sanctions on North Korea "neither embodies the constructive role of easing the situation, nor brings new ideas conducive for solving the problem."
"Exclusively pursuing and piling on sanctions will only lead to a dead end," Dai told the council. "China genuinely hopes for stability rather than chaos on the peninsula ... China calls on all parties to remain cool-headed and restrained."
The Security Council met on Monday after North Korea launched two more ballistic missiles, with the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un saying Pyongyang's use of the Pacific as a "firing range" would depend on the behavior of U.S. forces.
The launches on Monday came just days after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) into the sea off Japan, prompting the United States to hold joint air exercises with South Korea and separately with Japan on Sunday.
After the Security Council meeting, two-thirds of the body's members and South Korea issued a joint statement - read by Thomas-Greenfield - condemning North Korea's missile launches.
"We will not stay silent as the DPRK advances its unlawful nuclear and missile capabilities, threatening international peace and security," read the statement.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Sandra Maler)