The United States accused slammed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the United Nations on Thursday for using "repression and cruelty" and totalitarian rule to unlawfully develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
"We cannot have peace without human rights," US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the Security Council, which met to publicly for the first time since 2017 to discuss human rights abuses in North Korea.
"Kim Jong Un's repressive, totalitarian control of society – and the systemic, widespread denial of human rights and fundamental freedoms – ensures the regime can expend inordinate public resources developing its unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs, without public objection," she said.
North Korea has repeatedly rejected accusations of abuses and blames sanctions for a dire humanitarian situation. Since 2006 it has been under UN sanctions over its ballistic missiles and nuclear programs, but there are aid exemptions.
China said it opposed the public meeting of the 15-member council on abuses in North Korea, but it did not attempt to block it on Thursday. China failed four times between 2014 and 2017 to stop public meetings on the issue.
"The council should play a constructive role in resuming talk and easing tensions," China's Deputy UN Ambassador Geng Shuang told the meeting, which was requested by the United States, Albania and Japan.
"Pushing the council to consider the human rights situation in the DPRK will not only not help to ease, but escalate the situation. It is irresponsible, unconstructive and an abuse of the council's power," he said.
Calls for increased weapon production
Kim on Monday called for an increase in missile production to be ready for war, while a South Korean lawmaker warned on Thursday that Pyongyang may launch an intercontinental ballistic missile to protest a US, Japan, South Korea summit.
UN human rights chief Volker Turk said that there had been decades of chronic human rights violations in North Korea, and that many "stem directly from, or support, the increasing militarization of the DPRK."
He cited widespread forced labor used to "support the military apparatus of the State and its ability to build weapons."
North Korea did not address the meeting. But on Wednesday it lashed out at human rights in the United States, saying that US soldier Travis King had sought refuge in North Korea from racism and abuse at home and in the US military.
"No country has a perfect human rights record. We all have our flaws. But in open societies, people can protest and drive progress forward," Thomas-Greenfield the council on Thursday.
Ilhyeok Kim fled North Korea when he was 17. Now in his late 20s, he told the Security Council that he had been forced to do unpaid labor from a young age, planting and harvesting crops.
"The government turns our blood and sweat into luxurious life for the leadership and missiles that blast our hard work into sky," Kim said.
"The money spent on just one missile could feed us for three months, but the government doesn't care and is only concerned with maintaining their power, developong nuclear weapons and creating propaganda to justify their actions," he said.