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China, Russia fail to stop UN meeting on North Korea rights abuses

By Thomson Reuters Jun 12, 2024 | 10:12 AM

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia and China failed in a bid to stop the United Nations Security Council meeting on Tuesday to discuss human rights abuses in North Korea.

The 15-member council last met on the issue in August 2023, which was its first public discussion since 2017.

China’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Geng Shuang said the current human rights situation in North Korea – formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – does not constitute a threat to international peace and security.

“Pushing the council to intervene in the human rights issue of the DPRK will not help to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula. On the contrary, it will intensify antagonism and aggravate confrontation,” Shuang told the council.

A minimum nine votes were needed to hold the meeting and China, Russia, the U.S., Britain and France could not wield their vetoes. Twelve members voted for the meeting on Tuesday, Russia and China voted against and Mozambique abstained.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said human rights abuses in North Korea were “inextricably linked” to Pyongyang’s threats to international peace and security, which the Security Council is charged with maintaining.

“The regime relies on forced labor and the exploitation of DPRK workers both domestically and overseas to develop weapons of mass destruction. What is shameful here is the obvious efforts by China and Russia to protect the DPRK,” she said.

The meeting had been requested by the United States, Japan, South Korea and Britain.

“Their sole goal is once again to distort the situation on the Korean peninsula and to detract attention from the root causes of the real security issues that have arisen in the region,” said Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia.

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

Between 2014 and 2017 the Security Council held annual public meetings on human rights abuses in North Korea. The council held annual formal meetings behind closed doors on the issue between 2020-2022.

A landmark 2014 U.N. report on North Korean human rights concluded that North Korean security chiefs – and possibly leader Kim Jong Un 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.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Hugh Lawson)