North Korea urges UN to oppose meeting on human rights

NEW YORK • North Korea is urging United Nations Security Council members to block a US bid to hold a meeting on Pyongyang's human rights record, saying it would run counter to recent peace moves.

North Korean Ambassador Kim Song expressed "deep surprise and regret" that the council would "swim against the current trend" by holding the meeting, tentatively requested for Dec 10, according to a letter sent to the council on Tuesday.

If it goes ahead, it would be the fifth time that the council has held the annual meeting to discuss human-rights violations in North Korea as a threat to international peace and security.

The United States has, every year since 2014, garnered the nine votes needed at the council to hold the meeting, despite opposition from China.

Every year, China has requested a procedural vote in an attempt to block the meeting, arguing that human rights should be discussed at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council and not at the Security Council.

The North Korean ambassador wrote that the meeting would "stoke confrontation, instead of encouraging and promoting the ongoing positive developments".

He accused the US of "conspiring to invite" UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet to address the council to report on rights abuses in North Korea.

A historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un opened up dialogue on denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula between the two countries after months of military threats.

A second summit is expected to be held next year, but North Korea has taken few concrete steps to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The council has slapped a series of tough economic sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear tests and missile firings.

The United States maintains that the UN sanctions will remain in place until North Korea has fully scrapped its weapons programmes.

A landmark 2014 report by a UN Commission of Inquiry documented human rights abuses on an appalling scale in North Korea, describing a vast network of prison camps where detainees are subjected to torture, starvation and summary executions.

The report accused leader Kim of atrocities and concluded that he could be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

North Korea has rejected the report as a fabrication based on testimony from dissidents who have betrayed their country.

The discussion over rights abuses in North Korea come as China and Russia are pushing the council to ease sanctions on Pyongyang to encourage progress in talks on denuclearisation.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2018, with the headline 'N. Korea urges UN to oppose meeting on human rights'. Print Edition | Subscribe