Security Council Meets Behind Closed Doors with Defector From Democratic People's Republic of Korea

The Security Council met behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss the mounting human rights crisis in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea amid concerns about its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The speakers included a defector from that country who described the regime as a dictatorship that denies its people's basic freedoms to serve the interests of the ruling Kim family. He parted with his belief that the Kims were his heroes and said he wanted to be his country's diplomat.

During the meeting, the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea expressed concerns about the links between human rights violations and threats to international peace and security. The representatives of China and the Russian Federation opposed discussing human rights in the Council and called for a vote to block its proceeding. However, their motion was defeated by most members.

Volker Türk, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, welcomed the Council's attention to the DPRK's precarious human rights situation and the interconnections between human rights, development, and peace and security. He also called for the ending of Pyongyang's repression of the right to freedom of movement and expression and enforced disappearance, which he described as a threat to regional stability and peace.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, Elizabeth Salmón, highlighted the introduction of new laws with death penalty provisions for minor crimes and called for action. She underscored that the unwillingness or inability of the country to fulfill its duty to protect its people's human rights must trigger the obligation of other States to act. She also called for a discussion of expedient accountability measures, including referring the situation to the International Criminal Court.

The representatives of China and the Russian Federation opposed holding today's briefing, calling for a vote on the provisional agenda. They argued that the matter did not fall within the Council's mandate and was not the proper place to address human rights issues. The Council then adopted the provisional agenda by a vote of 12 in favor to 2 against (China, Russian Federation), with 1 abstention (Mozambique).

In other comments, the representatives of the United States and the Republic of Korea expressed concerns about the links between human rights violations and threats to international peace and security. They also accused China and Russia of blocking the discussion and protecting the DPRK's regime by ensuring that Pyongyang can expend public resources on its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles program without public objection.

The representative of Malta expressed concern that today's meeting would reverse the progress made by pushing the DPRK to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The Russian representative said that the United States' nuclear capabilities near the Korean borders pose a dangerous threshold of open armed conflict with unpredictable consequences. The Chinese representative said that pushing the Council to instrumentalize the human rights situation would only fuel animosities and not help peace and stability. He also called for dialogue, the quelling of provocative behaviors, and the adjustment of sanctions, especially in the humanitarian and livelihood areas.

The representative of Mozambique underscored the need for genuine engagement to reduce tensions, build trust, and ultimately achieve complete denuclearization of the Peninsula.

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