Trump officials block UN meeting on human rights abuses in North Korea

The US action appeared to be aimed at preserving a tenuous diplomatic opening between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - The Trump administration has refused to support a move by members of the United Nations Security Council to hold a discussion on Tuesday (Dec 10) on North Korea's rampant human rights abuses, effectively blocking the meeting for the second year in a row.

The US action appeared aimed at muting international criticism of Pyongyang's human rights record in the hope of preserving a tenuous diplomatic opening between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, the authoritarian leader of North Korea.

On Monday, North Korea called Mr Trump a "heedless and erratic old man" after the American President warned that Mr Kim could lose "everything" if he resumed military provocations like nuclear or long-range missile tests before the 2020 elections in the United States.

A proposed meeting of the Security Council on Tuesday had been intended to put a spotlight on North Korea on Human Rights Day, which is held every Dec 10 to mark the day in 1948 when the General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Eight of the council's 15 members had signed a letter to schedule the meeting but needed a ninth member - the minimum required.

UN diplomats, confirming a report in Foreign Policy, said the United States had declined to sign.

Asked on Monday about the administration's blocking of the meeting, a State Department spokesman said any discussion of North Korea by the Security Council should cover recent developments on the Korean Peninsula, including missile launches by Pyongyang and a test at a satellite launch site.

The council plans to discuss them on Wednesday.

Even with the derailment of the human rights meeting, the North Korean government has intensified its recent invective aimed at Mr Trump.

Mr Kim Yong Chol, a hardliner who speaks for the North Korean military, issued a statement criticising Mr Trump hours after the American

leader warned on Twitter on Sunday that Mr Kim Jong Un had "far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way".

The messages came after North Korea announced on Sunday that it had carried out a "very important test" at its missile-engine test site.

Analysts said the test probably involved a booster engine that could be used to propel a satellite-delivery rocket or an intercontinental ballistic missile.

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