Trump blocks UN from scrutinising North Korea human rights record for second year in a row

Pyongyang warned such a meeting would trigger a strong response

Kate Ng
Wednesday 11 December 2019 12:07
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shakes hands with US President Donald Trump during their historic US-DPRK summit
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shakes hands with US President Donald Trump during their historic US-DPRK summit

The United States is holding back a UN Security Council meeting to discuss North Korea’s human rights abuses, after Pyongyang warned it would be a “serious provocation”.

The meeting was set to convene on Tuesday, to coincide with Human Rights Day, but US Ambassador Kelly Craft told reporters last week the meeting was still undecided.

In order for the event to go ahead, at least nine countries must support a request for it and thereby defeat any bid to block it.

According to Reuters, eight members of the 15-nation council were in support of a meeting, with the US holding the final undecided vote.

North Korea’s UN ambassador Kim Song wrote to the council warning that any discussion of the country’s human rights record would be “an act of conniving at and siding with the US hostile policy, which will lead to undermining rather than helping reduction of tensions on the Korean Peninsula and resolution of the nuclear issue”.

Ms Craft said she read Mr Song’s letter and insisted no one could “stand by and allow human rights to be abused”, but the meeting was undecided nonetheless.

This will be the second year in a row the US has failed to support scrutiny by the UN into North Korea’s human rights violations.

The move signals a continued desire by President Donald Trump to cajole the hermit kingdom into giving up its nuclear and missile programmes, reported Foreign Policy.

Diplomatic relations between the US and North Korea have become tense since the latter resumed testing on its short- and medium-range missiles.

On Sunday, Mr Trump warned North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un he “has far too much to lose” by acting in a “hostile way”, and reminded him of the Denuclearisation Agreement both leaders signed in Singapore last year.

North Korean state media responded to Mr Trump’s warning by calling the president an “old man bereft of patience” and “heedless and erratic”.

Louis Charbonneau, UN director for Human Rights Watch, said: “By blocking this meeting… the Trump administration is sending a message to Kim that the US no longer considers arbitrary detention, starvation, torture, summary executions, sexual violence, and other crimes against the North Korean people a priority.

“North Korea and many other abusive governments can now rest assured that they have little to fear from the Trump administration when it comes to human rights.”

North Korea has set a deadline for the US to relax sanctions by the end of the year if it is to resume denuclearisation talks.

According to a Korea expert who spoke to CNBC, Pyongyang is ready to test an intercontinental ballistic missile on Christmas Day if it does not receive the sanctions relief it is seeking.

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