North Korea warns US against meeting on its human rights

In a photo taken on Feb 16, 2019, an image of Mount Paektu is displayed behind the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, as people pay their respects on Mansu hill in Pyongyang.
In a photo taken on Feb 16, 2019, an image of Mount Paektu is displayed behind the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, as people pay their respects on Mansu hill in Pyongyang.PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - North Korea warned Wednesday (Dec 4) that tensions on the Korean peninsula will increase and the situation "take a turn for the worse again" if the United States goes ahead with a UN Security Council meeting on the country's human rights situation.

North Korea's UN ambassador Kim Song said in a letter to the 14 other council members obtained by The Associated Press that Pyongyang considers any council meeting on its human rights "another serious provocation" resulting from the United States' "hostile policy" and "will respond strongly to the last."

"The United States and those countries on board shall bear full responsibility," he warned.

The United States holds the Security Council presidency this month and diplomats said the Trump administration is planning a meeting on North Korea's human rights situation, probably on Dec 10.

The US Mission did not respond to an email asking about the meeting.

The council discussed the rights situation in North Korea from 2014 through 2017, but skipped 2018.

The meetings went ahead only after a procedural vote in the 15-member council where at least nine nations are required to support holding a session. A similar vote would be required for a meeting this month.

Mr Kim called any discussion of North Korea's human rights "a flagrant violation" of the UN Charter and "an act of flattering and yielding to the US' hostile policy."

It is a result of that "deep-rooted" policy, he said, "that the situation of the Korean peninsula remains strained and the nuclear issue has yet to be resolved."

 

Earlier Wednesday, a half dozen European countries again condemned North Korea's 13 "provocative" ballistic missile launches since May, saying they violate Security Council resolutions and "undermine regional security and stability as well as international peace and security."

They also condemned recent North Korean threats "to partners in the region and beyond."

The statement was made by the five European council members - Belgium, France, Germany, United Kingdom and Poland - and Estonia, which will join the UN's most powerful body in January.

The Europeans issued the statement after closed Security Council consultations they requested on North Korea's latest missile launches on Nov 28, where they were briefed by UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo. The 15-member council did not issue any statement.

The Europeans again urged North Korea "to engage in good faith in meaningful negotiations with the United States aimed at denuclearisation, and to take concrete steps to abandoning all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programmes in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner."

"There is no other way to achieve security and stability on the Korean peninsula," the statement said. "Continued provocations risk undermining the prospect for successful negotiations."

North Korea has ramped up its missile tests in recent months, and experts say the launches are likely to continue as a way to pressure Washington into meeting Pyongyang's demand for new proposals to revive nuclear diplomacy by the end of December.

Diplomatic efforts have largely remained deadlocked since a second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed last February.

Last week, North Korea test-fired projectiles from what it called a "super-large" multiple rocket launcher that South Korea's military said landed in the waters off the North's east coast.

"It is vital that the Security Council ensures full implementation of its resolutions and that sanctions remain in place," the European statement said.

It urged all nations to fulfill their obligations "to strictly enforce these sanctions."

North Korea's Foreign Ministry warned Tuesday that it is entirely up to the United States to choose what "Christmas gift" it gets from the Kim Jong Un's government. Mr Kim's military chief lashed out at Mr Trump on Wednesday for talking about a possible military option against the North.

North Korean officials have previously said whether North Korea lifts its moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests depends on what actions the US takes by the end of the year.

 

Britain's UN ambassador, Ms Karen Pierce, told reporters, "I don't imagine it's a gift people want."

"What's really needed is for the North Koreans to take the concrete practical steps towards irreversible and verifiable denuclearization," she said.

She said it was her understanding that North Korean experts have not engaged in detail with the Americans following up on the Kim-Trump summit.

"I think the pattern of North Korean behaviour so far is actually, unfortunately, more missile violations," Ms Pierce said.

The human rights situation in North Korea has been condemned for many years in resolutions adopted by the UN General Assembly.

The assembly's human rights committee unanimously approved a draft resolution last month condemning North Korea for "ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights," including those that a UN commission of inquiry says may amount to crimes against humanity.

The 193-member General Assembly is virtually certain to adopt the draft resolution later this month.