West Highlights North Korea’s Rights Violations; China opposes
The United States, its Western allies and experts shone the spotlight on the dire human rights situation and growing repression in North Korea at a United Nations meeting on Friday, which China and Russia convened. denounced as a politicized decision likely to aggravate tensions on the Korean peninsula.
China blocked the US from broadcasting the informal Security Council meeting worldwide on the internet, a move criticized by US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield as an attempt to hide Korea’s ‘atrocities’ from the world North.
Webcasting requires the consent of all 15 board members. But the US envoy said Beijing’s efforts were in vain because the meeting will be made public, and the US and many others will continue to speak out against human rights abuses and threats to international peace by Pyongyang.
James Turpin, a senior official with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the continuing tensions on the Korean peninsula pose a threat to regional and international peace and security, and that “these tensions cannot be separated from the dire human rights situation”. in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”, the official name of the North.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, North Korea has been isolated. The UN has no international staff in the country and Turpin said this “coincided with an increase in repression of civil and political rights”.
He pointed to tougher government measures to prevent people from accessing information from the outside world, an extreme level of surveillance, people’s homes subject to random searches of material not authorized by the state and penalties for anyone tries to exercise fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, religion and peaceful assembly.
Elizabeth Salmon, the United Nations special investigator on human rights in North Korea, also underlined “the interdependence of international peace and security and human rights”, saying that peace and denuclearization cannot be addressed without taking into account current human rights violations.
She told the meeting that the limited information available shows that the suffering of the North Korean people has increased and their already limited freedoms have diminished. Access to food, medicine and health care remains a priority concern, “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, adviser to the Chinese mission to the UN, criticized the United States for discussing human rights in the Security Council whose mandate is to ensure international peace and security, saying that this “is in no way constructive”. Instead of easing tensions, he said, “it could rather escalate the conflict, and so it’s an irresponsible decision.”
“Using UN WebTV for live streaming is a waste of UN resources,” Xing added, saying that while countries are truly concerned about the situation on the Korean Peninsula and the well-being of the population, they should strive to relaunch dialogue, defuse tensions and support the lifting of sanctions that affect the livelihoods of North Koreans and the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the country.
Stepan Kuzmenkov, senior adviser to the Russian UN mission, echoed China’s opposition to the Security Council discussing human rights and said there was no reason to convene the meeting “which has a clear anti-North Korean bent”.
He accused the US of using human rights ‘to settle scores with governments they don’t like’ and condemned what he called ‘flows of disinformation’ about North Korea broadcast by the United States and its allies “under the pretext that they are trying to protect human rights.
“What we are seeing is the United States, South Korea and Japan engaging in aggressive and militaristic activities, thus inflaming tensions in Northeast Asia, endangering the security countries in the region,” Kuzmenov said. “Americans are ignoring initiatives that would help ease tensions as well as substantial and constructive signals (North Korean leader) that Kim Jong Un is sending, which could lead to eventual de-escalation.”
Thomas-Greenfield of the United States countered that “the regime’s widespread human rights abuses and its 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, always trumps the human rights and humanitarian needs of its people,” Thomas-Greenfield said.