North Korea, angry after being accused by the US of hacking Sony Pictures, is refusing to turn up to what would have been a groundbreaking discussion of its human rights situation at the UN.
The meeting was set to discuss potential human rights abuses in the country — and was convened long before the US accused the country of being involved in the Sony hack — but the country has now refused to come to the meeting. It was expected that the hack and its fallout was to be discussed at the meeting.
International pressure has built this year on Pyongyang after a sprawling U.N.-backed inquiry of alleged crimes against humanity and warned that young leader Kim Jong Un could be held accountable. And attention has focused on the North in recent days, as the Obama administration on Friday blamed it for the devastating hacking attack on Sony over the film "The Interview," which portrays Kim's assassination.
Now the 15-member Security Council is being urged to refer North Korea's human rights situation to the International Criminal Court, seen as a court of last resort for atrocities. It's the boldest effort yet to confront Pyongyang over an issue it has openly disdained in the past.
Instead of a showdown, North Korea says it will not attend Monday's meeting. It accuses the United States and its allies of using the human rights issue as a weapon to overthrow the leadership of the impoverished but nuclear-armed nation. It also calls the dozens of people who fled the North and aided the commission of inquiry "human scum."
If the council takes any action, "maybe we will take necessary measures," diplomat Kim Song told The Associated Press on Friday. He did not give details.
North Korea already sent a sharp warning last month, threatening further nuclear tests after the U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee voted to move the issue toward the Security Council, which can take binding actions on matters of international peace and security.
The council has had North Korea's nuclear program on its agenda for years, but Monday's meeting opens the door to wider discussion of abuses alleged in the recent inquiry, including starvation and a harsh political prison camp system of up to 120,000 inmates. Pyongyang rejects the inquiry's findings but never allowed it into the country.
Two-thirds of the Security Council this month formally requested that North Korea's human rights situation be placed on the agenda for ongoing debate, saying rights violations "threaten to have a destabilizing impact on the region."
China and its veto power as a permanent council member could block any action against its traditional but troublesome ally, but the mere threat of damage to Kim Jong Un's image has outraged the North Korean government.
Such fury is thought to be behind the Sony hacking. North Korea has denied the attack but has suggested it was a "righteous deed" carried out by sympathizers.
Sony last week cancelled the Christmas Day release of "The Interview," setting off alarm among some diplomats and entertainment figures who warned of setting a precedent for backing down in the face of future threats. The hacking is expected to be discussed in Monday's meeting.
Additional reporting by Associated Press
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies