China, Russia oppose UN council meeting on North Korea's human rights

A visitor waves the Chinese national flag as people wait for a flag raising ceremony at the Tiananmen Square amid heavy smog in Beijing, China, on Dec 1, 2015.
A visitor waves the Chinese national flag as people wait for a flag raising ceremony at the Tiananmen Square amid heavy smog in Beijing, China, on Dec 1, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS (REUTERS) - China and Russia oppose US plans to hold a special meeting this week on human rights in North Korea, which has been accused by a UN inquiry of abuses comparable to Nazi-era atrocities, council diplomats said on Monday (Dec 7).

The United States, president of the Security Council this month, said last week that the meeting would take place on Thursday (Dec 10) at 2.30 pm (1930 GMT). Senior UN officials are expected to brief the council.

Several diplomats told Reuters that both China and Russia had informed the council of their opposition to the meeting, which has the backing of nine of the 15 council members - Chile, France, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain, Britain and the United States.

"China informed council members that the Security Council has no business with human rights but should look at matters of international peace and security," one diplomat said, summarising the Chinese complaint.

Russia, diplomats said, raised a procedural complaint, noting that the United States had not raised the issue during a formal discussion last week on the council's program of work for December.

The Security Council last discussed the issue a year ago.

Last month, China's UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi said it would be a "bad idea" for the Security Council to hold such a meeting, adding that the council "is not about human rights."

The Security Council added human rights in North Korea to its agenda last year, despite objections by China that led to a rare procedural vote. Beijing is a strong ally of Pyongyang.

Two diplomats said a new procedural vote was likely given the objections of China and Russia to the scheduled meeting. They said Russia and China would likely lose any procedural vote because they cannot use their veto power in such cases.

The missions of China and North Korea have so far not responded to requests for comment on the planned meeting. A spokesman for Russia's mission declined to comment.

North Korea has denied allegations of systematic human rights abuses, saying such charges are part of a US-led plot to destabilise the country.

A year ago this month, the 193-member UN General Assembly urged the Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) after a UN Commission of Inquiry detailed wide-ranging abuses in the hermit Asian state.

China is likely to veto any Security Council bid to refer North Korea to the ICC, diplomats said.