NEW YORK — The United States has called for an open U.N. Security Council meeting on August 17 to discuss the human rights situation in North Korea and its link to international peace and security.
“We know the government’s human rights abuses and violations facilitate the advancement of its unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles program,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters. She was joined in making the announcement by the ambassadors of South Korea, Japan and Albania.
North Korea has launched scores of ballistic missiles and several intercontinental ballistic missiles this year. It regularly blames the tense situation on the Korean Peninsula on joint military exercises that the United States and South Korea carry out and says its missile program is meant to deter and “strike fear” into its enemies.
“The Security Council must address the horrors, the abuses and the crimes being perpetrated daily by the Kim regime against its own citizens, and people from other member states, including Japan and Republic of Korea,” the U.S. envoy said of the systemic human rights abuses.
The United States holds the 15-nation Security Council’s rotating presidency this month and Thomas-Greenfield has said human rights would be a core theme.
It is the first time the council will hold a public session on the rights issue in North Korea since 2017 and the U.S. envoy said it is “long overdue.”
Russia and China often argue that the Security Council is not the correct U.N. venue to discuss human rights issues. But a senior U.S. official who briefed reporters Thursday said none of the other forums focus on the links between North Korea’s WMD and ballistic missile advancements, which is why the Security Council must be briefed on the issue.
Moscow and Beijing could call for a procedural vote in a bid to block the meeting. Nine of the 15 council members would then have to vote in favor of holding it for the meeting to happen. The senior U.S. official said Washington is “in a comfortable place” in terms of having sufficient council support.
The council will be briefed by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk and U.N. Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in North Korea Elizabeth Salmón, as well as a civil society representative.
“Protecting people around the world is an integral part of the U.N. Charter and an important responsibility of the Security Council,” the ambassador said. “And that means holding the DPRK regime accountable for its human rights abuses and violations.”
DPRK is the abbreviation for the North Korea’s official name – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The senior U.S. official said that Pyongyang’s use of forced labor to fund its illicit weapons programs would also be highlighted at the session.
The Kim government’s human rights abuses are well known. The U.N. Commission of Inquiry (COI) and other independent human rights experts have documented testimony from hundreds of defectors.
In 2014, the COI found that North Korea’s violations had risen to the level of crimes against humanity. Among them the report found: “extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”
The last time the council discussed North Korea’s human rights was at an informal, “Arria” style meeting in March. China objected to it, saying it was not constructive and would not ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and blocked the consensus necessary to broadcast it on the United Nations website.