West highlights human rights violations in North Korea; China is against it
UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The United States, its Western allies and experts at a UN meeting on Friday put the spotlight on the dire human rights record and mounting repression in North Korea, which China and Russia denounced as a politicized move likely to escalate tensions will escalate the Korean Peninsula.
China blocked the US from broadcasting the informal Security Council meeting globally, a decision criticized by US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield as trying to hide North Korea’s “atrocities from the world”.
Webcasting requires approval of all 15 council members. However, the US envoy said Beijing’s efforts were in vain as the meeting would be made public and the US and many others would continue to oppose Pyongyang’s human rights abuses and threats to international peace.
James Turpin, a senior official at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula posed a threat to regional and international peace and security and “these tensions cannot be helped by the dire human rights situation be separated in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” is the official name of the North.
North Korea has been isolated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. The United Nations has no international staff in the country and Turpin said this “coincides with an increase in repression of civil and political rights”.
He pointed to stricter government measures to prevent people from gaining access to information from the outside world, extreme levels of surveillance, indiscriminate searches of people’s homes for unauthorized material and penalties for anyone trying to exercise fundamental rights , including freedom of expression, religion and association.
Elizabeth Salmon, the UN special adviser on human rights in North Korea, also stressed “the interdependence of international peace and security and human rights,” saying peace and denuclearization cannot be addressed without considering current human rights abuses.
She told the meeting that the limited information available shows that the suffering of the North Korean people has increased and their already restricted freedoms have decreased. Access to food, medicine and health care remains a priority, “people froze to death during the January cold spells” and some had no money to heat their homes while others were forced to live on the streets because they were selling their homes as a last resort.
Xing Jisheng, an adviser to China’s UN mission, criticized the US for discussing human rights in the Security Council, whose mandate is to ensure international peace and security, saying it was “in no way constructive”. Rather than relieving tension, he said, “it may rather exacerbate the conflict, and so it’s an irresponsible move.”
“Using UN WebTV for live broadcasting is a waste of UN resources,” Xing added, saying if countries are really concerned about the situation on the Korean Peninsula and people’s well-being, they should work to improve the Resume dialogue, de-escalate tensions and support the lifting of sanctions that are affecting the livelihoods of North Koreans and the country’s deteriorating humanitarian situation.
Stepan Kuzmenkov, a senior adviser to Russia’s UN mission, reiterated China’s opposition to discussing human rights at the Security Council, saying there was no reason for convening the meeting “which has a clear anti-North Korean bias.”
He accused the US of using human rights “to settle scores with governments they don’t like” and condemned what he called “streams of disinformation” about North Korea being “spread by the US and its allies under the pretense of… that they try”. protect human rights.”
“What we are seeing is that the United States, South Korea and Japan are engaging in aggressive militaristic activities, thereby fueling tensions in Northeast Asia and threatening the security of countries in the region,” Kuzmenov said. “Americans are ignoring initiatives that would help defuse tensions, as well as the substantive and constructive signals[North Korean leader]Kim Jong Un is sending that could bring about possible de-escalation.”
American Thomas-Greenfield countered that “the regime’s widespread human rights abuses and threats to our collective security could not be clearer.”
North Korea’s ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs threaten international peace and security and are “inextricably linked to the regime’s human rights abuses,” she said.
“In the DPRK, the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction always trumps the human rights and humanitarian needs of its people,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press