China opposes UN Security Council meeting on North Korea rights

In this Dec. 16, 2019, photo, South Korean army soldiers stand guard at the Unification Bridge, which leads to the Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone in Paju, South Korea. The U.S. is closely watching North Korea for signs of a possible missile launch or nuclear test in the coming days that officials are referring to as a “Christmas surprise.” (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 14, 2023, Reuters. China opposes a planned United Nations Security Council meeting on human rights abuses in North Korea because it will only “intensify confrontation and antagonism,” a spokesperson for China’s U.N. mission in New York said on Monday, Reuters reported.

The United States, Albania and Japan requested the meeting, which will be held on Thursday. It will be the first formal public meeting of the 15-member council on the issue since 2017.

“China sees no added value for the council to have such a meeting and will be against it,” said China’s U.N. mission spokesperson, adding that the council’s mandate was “maintenance of international peace and security, not human rights.”

“A council meeting on human rights in the DPRK falls outside the council’s mandate, politicizes human rights issues, and only serves to intensify confrontation and antagonism,” said the spokesperson, referring to the country’s formal name – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for an increase in missile production to help secure “overwhelming military power” and be ready for war, state media KCNA said on Monday, as South Korea and the United States gear up for annual military drills.

It was not immediately clear if China would call a procedural vote on Thursday to try and block the Security Council meeting on rights abuses, but a senior U.S. official has said they were confident they have the minimum nine votes needed to move ahead. Vetoes do not apply on procedural issues.

North Korea has repeatedly rejected accusations of abuses and blames sanctions for a dire humanitarian situation. Since 2006 it has been under U.N. sanctions over its ballistic missiles and nuclear programs, but there are aid exemptions.

In March, the United States accused China of attempting to hide North Korea’s atrocities from the world by blocking the webcast of an informal meeting of Security Council members on accusations of human rights abuses by Pyongyang.

The council has held annual formal meetings on the issue for the past three years, but behind closed doors. Between 2014 and 2017 the council held annual public meetings on human rights abuses in North Korea.

A landmark 2014 U.N. report on North Korean human rights concluded that North Korean security chiefs – and possibly leader Kim himself – should face justice for overseeing a state-controlled system of Nazi-style atrocities. The United States sanctioned Kim in 2016 for human rights abuses.

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