North Korea to head UN disarmament forum on Monday, NGOs protest
North Korea on Monday will take over as chair of the world disarmament forum which negotiated the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, sparking an appeal (see text below) by 30 UN-accredited non-governmental organizations for UN chief Antonio Guterres, the U.S., Canada, UK, EU states and other democracies to strongly protest, and for their ambassadors to walk out of the conference during the four weeks of the North Korean presidency, starting on May 30, 2022.
The 65-nation Conference on Disarmament, based in Geneva, is considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament efforts. The UN-backed body calls itself « the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community. »
“Having the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un preside over global nuclear weapons disarmament will be like putting a serial rapist in charge of a women’s shelter,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental organization that monitors the United Nations, and which spearheaded the joint protest.
« This is a country that threatens to attack other UN member states with missiles, and that commits atrocities against its own people. Torture and starvation are routine in North Korean political prison camps where an estimated 100,000 people are held in what is one of the world’s most dire human-rights situations, » said Neuer.
Under UN rules, the North Korean ambassador to the forum, Mr. Han Tae Song, will help organize the work of the conference and assist in setting the agenda.
He will exercise all functions of a presiding officer, and represent the body in its relations with states, the General Assembly and other organs of the United Nations, and with other international organizations.
While the post is largely formal, “North Korea holding the president’s gavel is liable to seriously undermine the image and credibility of the United Nations, and will send absolutely the worst message,” said Neuer.
« At a time when China, Cuba, Libya, Kazakhstan and Venezuela are sitting on the UN’s human rights council, this won’t help. »
North Korea is world’s foremost weapons proliferator
« North Korea is the world’s foremost weapons proliferator. The regime builds its own nuclear weapons in contravention of its treaty commitments. Pyongyang sells missile and atomic know-how to other rogue regimes in blatant violation of U.N. sanctions, » said Neuer.
Yesterday, Pyongyang fired three missiles, including one thought to be its largest intercontinental ballistic missile, the latest in a string of banned ballistic missile launches that the country has carried out this year.
« If the U.N. seeks to be an institution with a moral compass, it cannot allow the likes of North Korea to head arms control agencies, and to keep electing the world’s worst abusers on its top human rights body, » said Neuer.
Democracies should walk out
“UN Watch urges the U.S., Canada, Britain, France, Germany, and all other member and observer states to refuse to send ambassadors to any meeting of this UN forum that is being chaired by North Korea. The U.S. and Canada pulled out while Iran was chair in 2013, and should do so again,” said Neuer.
It as “a fundamental conflict of interests to have North Korea as president of a disarmament forum, an act liable to be exploited by North Korean propaganda, to legitimize Kim Jong-un’s cruel regime,” said Neuer.
“A country that flagrantly violates UN Security Council resolutions explicitly prohibiting its ballistic missile launches should be barred from any formal positions in UN bodies dealing with the such vital matters as nuclear weapons disarmament,” said Neuer.
North Korea has continued developing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in 2021 in violation of UN sanctions and despite the country’s worsening economic situation, UN sanctions monitors reported in August.
“The North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un simply cannot be a credible chair of this or any other United Nations body. North Korea’s illegal development of nuclear weapons, in breach of its disarmament obligations, run counter to the objectives and principles of the Conference on Disarmament itself. »
« North Korea’s chairmanship will only undermine the integrity of both the disarmament framework and of the United Nations, and no country should support that.”
North Korea will assume the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament on May 30 and hold it over four weeks, until June 24.
About the Conference of Disarmament
The Conference of Disarmament (CD) reports to the UN General Assembly and is billed by the UN as “the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community.”
Established in 1979 after a special UN General Assembly session, the CD is made up of 65 countries who have been divided in recent years on key issues.
The conference and its predecessors have negotiated such major multilateral arms limitation and disarmament agreements as:
• Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
• Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction
• Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction
• Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques
• Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty
UN Sanctions on North Korea for Illicit Nuclear and Missile Activities
The United Nations Security Council has adopted at least nine major sanctions resolutions on North Korea in response to the country’s illicit nuclear and missile activities since 2006. Each resolution condemns North Korea’s latest nuclear and ballistic missile activity and calls on North Korea to cease its illicit activity, which violates previous UN Security Council resolutions.
In addition to imposing sanctions, the resolutions give UN member states the authority to interdict and inspect North Korean cargo within their territory, and subsequently seize and dispose of illicit shipments.