20 April 2019
US Ambassador Samantha Power tells the Security Council of the human rights violations said to have been committed in North Korea. Photo: AFP
US Ambassador Samantha Power tells the Security Council of the human rights violations said to have been committed in North Korea. Photo: AFP

Life in N Korea ‘living nightmare’, US tells Security Council

Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, said life in North Korea is a “living nightmare” after the Security Council voted to put the hermit state’s human rights record on its agenda.

The US and other Western members of the council on Monday voted to overrule China’s objections to the inclusion of North Korea on the agenda, Reuters reported.

There were 11 votes in favor, two against and two abstentions. Russia and China voted against the inclusion of North Korea on the council’s agenda, but as there are no vetoes in procedural votes of the council, the Chinese attempt to defeat the measure failed, the report said.

China is North Korea’s chief ally and supporter.

Until now, the council’s discussions of North Korea have been limited to its nuclear weapons program. But with Monday’s vote, all aspects of the country can now be scrutinized by the 15-nation body.

Before the vote, China’s Ambassador to the UN Liu Jieyi said “the Security Council is not the forum to get involved in human rights issues” and it “should refrain from doing anything that might cause an escalation”.

After the vote, a formal meeting on North Korea began immediately, as requested by Australian Ambassador Gary Quinlan and nine other mostly Western ambassadors. He described the council move as “an historic step”.

“The DPRK (North Korea) is in effect a totalitarian state which uses violence and repression against its own citizens to maintain itself and its threatening military apparatus in power,” Quinlan said. “The regime’s atrocities against its own people have created an inherently unstable state.”

Monday’s meeting comes after the General Assembly on Friday urged the council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity as alleged in a UN inquiry report released in February.

North Korea did not participate in the meeting. Pyongyang says the rights criticism is based on lies. A North Korean diplomat warned that a decision on how to respond to the Security Council move on Monday, which he blamed on the US, will come from Pyongyang.

In a letter to the council sent on Monday, North Korean Ambassador Ja Song Nam said the council actions were “a politically motivated dangerous attempt to lay a ground for an invasion of the DPRK under the pretext of ‘human rights”.

Power cited horrific accounts from defectors who fled North Korean prison camps, accounts Pyongyang dismisses as fabricated.

“Ahn Myong Chul, a former guard at Prison Camp 22, spoke of guards routinely raping prisoners,” she said. “In one case in which a victim became pregnant and gave birth, the former guard reported, prison officials cooked her baby and fed it to their dogs.”

Power also mentioned the hacking of Sony Pictures, which Washington blames on North Korea. She dismissed as “absurd” North Korea’s calls for a joint investigation of the incident with the US and threats of retaliation if it refused.

“It is exactly the kind of behavior we have come to expect from a regime that threatened to take ‘merciless countermeasures’ against the US over a Hollywood comedy, and has no qualms about holding tens of thousands of people in harrowing gulags,” Power said.

Pyongyang has denied any involvement in the hacking, although it earlier described as “an act of war” the release of the movie, which is about a fictitious assassination plot on the North Korean leader.

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