North Korea supreme leader Kim Jong-un.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – The United Nations Security Council convened on Thursday for a meeting to discuss “the situation in the Democratic People’s republic of Korea,” particularly with regard to human rights.
Although human rights are not typically a subject discussed at the UNSC, the debate on the DPRK was expanded to include this topic a year ago as the UN General Assembly urged the Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) after a UN Commission of Inquiry detailed wide-ranging abuses in the hermit Asian state.
China, North Korea’s most important economic and diplomatic backer is likely to veto any Security Council bid to refer North Korea to the ICC, diplomats said. Last month, China’s UN ambassador Liu Jieyi said it would be a “bad idea” for the Security Council to hold such a meeting, adding that the council “is not about human rights.”
US ambassador Samantha Powers, who presides at the council this month said that “given the ongoing threat posed by the DPRK” and “for as long as the situation in the DPRK remains unchanged” the UNSC will continue to meet on the subject.
The agenda for the meeting was adopted by nine votes to four opposed, including China and Russia.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman kicked off the meeting and said that “the international community has a collective responsibility to protect the population of the DPRK and to consider the wider implications of the reported grave human rights situations for the stability of the region.”
He also said that the international community has yet to agree on an effective way to address the serious human rights concerns raised by the report of the commission of inquiry last year.
“History has shown that serious violations of human rights often serve as signs of instability and conflict , especially the absence of accountability for such violations.”
North Korea has denied allegations of systematic human rights abuses, saying such charges are part of a US-led plot to destabilize the country.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seemed to hint on Thursday his country has developed a hydrogen bomb, a step up from the less powerful atomic bomb.
Kim made the comments as he toured the Phyongchon Revolutionary Site, which marks the feats of his father who died in 2011 and his grandfather, state founder and eternal president, Kim Il Sung, the official KCNA news agency said.
The work of Kim Il Sung “turned the DPRK into a powerful nuclear weapons state ready to detonate a self-reliant A-bomb and H-bomb to reliably defend its sovereignty and the dignity of the nation,” KCNA quoted Kim Jong Un as saying.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, “we certainly are concerned about the policies and intent and destabilizing actions of the North Korean regime. But at this point, the information that we have access to calls into serious question those claims.”
Reuters and Michael Wilner contributed to this report.