The United States has criticized members of the United Nations Security Council for attempting to shield North Korea from public scrutiny. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, accused some council members of being too willing to protect the regime from accountability. The comments were made during a meeting of the council on Friday, after China blocked a live online broadcast of an informal Security Council meeting in which North Korea’s alleged human rights abuses were expected to be discussed. Each of the Security Council’s 15 members has to agree before informal discussions are broadcast live. However, China, North Korea’s most important ally in the region, issued a rare objection, though the public could still attend the meeting in person.
The US mission to the UN rebuked China’s move, stating that it will continue to speak out against North Korea’s human rights abuses and threats to international peace. The US has previously clashed with China and Russia, another Security Council member, over discussions about human rights. The US mission tweeted that “they may be able to shut down the voices of the people in North Korea, but they cannot shut our voices down.”
Russia and China have argued against discussing human rights at the Security Council, pointing to the existence of another UN council dedicated to the issue. Chinese diplomat Xing Jisheng, who heads the country’s mission to the UN, specifically blasted Friday’s meeting as “not constructive in any way”, given the rising tensions in the Pacific region. North Korea said on Friday that its launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile the day prior was intended to “strike fear into the enemies” of its government, headed by Kim Jong Un.
The isolated communist state has conducted four missile launches in the span of about a week, citing “open hostility” from the US and its allies in the region. North Korea carried out the launches as South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minster Fumio Kishida met in Tokyo to mend ties between their two countries. The US and its allies have also been staging military exercises in the region.
Xing dismissed the proposal to broadcast the proceedings on the UN’s WebTV platform as “a waste of UN resources”. Russian diplomat Stepan Kuzmenkov echoed those criticisms in his statement to the Security Council, accusing the US of using human rights as a political tool. Russia was previously suspended from the UN Human Rights Council for alleged violations in Ukraine.
The United States co-hosted Friday’s informal meeting with Albania. During its proceedings, Thomas-Greenfield called on the Security Council to make good on its “obligation to address North Korea’s gross human rights abuses”, which she said “put our collective peace and security at risk”. The country has been under UN sanctions for its nuclear and missile programme since 2006.
Thomas-Greenfield also shared stories with the council from North Koreans who fled their country for fear of persecution. One woman had been forced to watch a mother executed by gunfire in front of her husband and four-year-old child. Another had been captured twice before while trying to escape. North Korea has long denied human rights violations against its people, and it did not take part in Friday’s meeting. But Thomas-Greenfield argued for the importance of sharing defectors’ stories before the council.
The Security Council is set to discuss North Korea’s missile launches in a formal meeting on Monday.