UNITED NATIONS - The United States has abandoned plans for a U.N. Security Council meeting focused on the human rights situation in North Korea and has instead called for a more "comprehensive" review of recent developments.
The U.S. State Department has instructed the U.S. delegation at the United Nations to propose this week's Security Council discussion on North Korea include "a comprehensive update on recent developments on the Korean Peninsula, including recent missile launches and the possibility of an escalatory DPRK provocation," according to a State Department spokesperson Monday.
Council diplomats said last week the human rights meeting was to take place Tuesday, which is international Human Rights Day. The meeting, which will be public and focus on non-proliferation instead, will take place Wednesday afternoon, a council diplomat said.
Last Tuesday, North Korea's vice foreign minister for U.S. affairs issued a statement saying U.S. promises of dialogue with Pyongyang are "nothing but a foolish trick." Ri Thae Song warned that his government would have a "Christmas gift" for the United States and added ominously that it would be "entirely up to the U.S." what that present would be.
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On Sunday, President Donald Trump tweeted that, "Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way." He added that the North Korean leader "does not want to void his special relationship with the president of the United States."
The U.N. Security Council deals with issues of international peace and security and certain council members often refuse to take up human rights issues, saying they belong in other U.N. fora, such as the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
Starting in 2014, after a U.N. board of inquiry issued a scathing report on the systemic and widespread rights abuses in North Korea, the council began discussing human rights each December. In 2018, in the aftermath of the historic summit between the U.S. and North Korean leaders, the meeting did not take place.
"Here we go again," said Louis Charbonneau, U.N. director at Human Rights Watch. "For the second year in a row the U.S. has prevented the U.N. Security Council from shining a spotlight on North Korea's abysmal human rights record, apparently because of President Trump's special relationship with Kim Jong Un."
Charbonneau said the move by the Trump administration sends a message "to Pyongyang and the world that the U.S. doesn't consider arbitrary detention, starvation, torture, summary executions, sexual violence and other crimes against the North Korean people a priority."
The United States holds the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council this month. At a news conference Friday, Ambassador Kelly Craft said in response to reporters' questions that, "I care about human rights around the world. I mean, there are, every corner of the world we've got human rights issues."