US ambassador slams Security Council members for banning webcast on alleged North Korean abuses.
The United States has denounced members of the United Nations Security Council for what it sees as an attempt to shield North Korea from public scrutiny.
“Some members of the council are only too willing to shield the regime from accountability,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, told a council meeting on Friday.
Earlier, China decided to block the live online broadcast of an informal Security Council meeting where alleged human rights abuses by North Korea were to be discussed.
Each of the 15 members of the Security Council must agree before the informal discussions are broadcast live. But China – North Korea’s most important ally in the region – raised a rare objection, although the public could still attend the meeting in person.
That prompted a rebuke from the US mission to the UN, which had previously clashed with China and Russia, another member of the Security Council, over human rights talks.
“We will continue to denounce North Korea’s human rights violations and threats to international peace,” the US mission tweeted. “They may be able to silence the voices of the North Korean people, but they cannot silence our voices.”
Russia and China have opposed discussing human rights in the Security Council, pointing to the existence of another UN council dedicated to the issue.
Chinese diplomat Xing Jisheng, who heads the country’s mission to the UN, specifically called Friday’s meeting “unconstructive in any way” given rising tensions in the Pacific region.
North Korea said on Friday that its launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile the day before was aimed at “sowing fear among the enemies” of its government, led by Kim Jong Un.
The isolated communist state carried out four missile launches in the space of about a week, citing “open hostility” from the United States and its allies in the region.
North Korea made the launches when South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met in Tokyo to restore ties between their two countries. The United States and its allies have also held military exercises in the region.
“Instead of easing tensions,” Xing said of Friday’s meeting, “it could rather escalate the conflict and is therefore an irresponsible decision.”
He also rejected the proposal to broadcast the proceedings on the UN’s WebTV platform, calling it “a waste of UN resources”.
Russian diplomat Stepan Kuzmenkov echoed those criticisms in his statement to the Security Council, accusing the United States of using human rights as a political tool. Russia had previously been suspended from the UN Human Rights Council for alleged violations in Ukraine.
“The West’s false, hypocritical concern for human rights in North Korea does not fool anyone,” Kuzmenkov said. “Everyone knows very well that the United States uses human rights to settle scores with governments they don’t like.”
The United States co-hosted Friday’s informal meeting with Albania. During her deliberations, Thomas-Greenfield called on the Security Council to uphold its “obligation to address the gross violations of human rights by North Korea,” which she said “undermine our peace and security. communities in danger”.
The country has been under UN sanctions over its nuclear and missile program since 2006.
“North Korea chose munitions over nutrition, missiles over people,” Thomas-Greenfield later tweeted. “In doing so, he threatened the global non-proliferation regime.”
The US ambassador also shared with the council stories of North Koreans who fled their country for fear of persecution.
A woman, she said, had been forced to watch a mother being shot in front of her husband and four-year-old child. Another had already been captured twice as he tried to escape.
“What was extraordinary was that she decided to flee a third time to save her sons,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “But she was carrying a poison pill with her because, if she failed, she would rather die than be imprisoned and tortured again.”
North Korea has long denied human rights abuses against its people and did not attend Friday’s meeting. But Thomas-Greenfield argued for the importance of sharing defector stories before the council.
“For every horrific story we hear, there are countless stories that we will never hear, that will never see the light of day. This, of course, is intentional,” she said.
“The Pyongyang regime is doing everything in its power to hide its atrocities from the outside world. But time and time again they have failed.
The Security Council is due to discuss the North Korean missile launches at an official meeting on Monday.