Diplomats: US postpones meeting on North Korea human rights

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States postponed a Security Council meeting scheduled for Monday to discuss human rights in North Korea because it couldn’t get enough support to hold it, U.N. diplomats said Friday.

The well-informed diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private, said the U.S. didn’t have support from nine of the 15 council nations, the minimum number needed to hold the meeting.

North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Kim Song sent letters last week to all council members except the United States accusing the Trump administration and some supporters of trying to “stoke confrontation” instead of promoting peace efforts by calling for the council meeting.

The Security Council has discussed human rights in North Korea for the past four years. Each meeting went ahead only after a procedural vote where the U.S. got at least nine “yes” votes. Diplomats said the U.S. had eight “yes” votes this year, but couldn’t persuade Ivory Coast to support the meeting.

“If we are unable to hold this important discussion this month, we hope to revisit holding this meeting in the new year,” a U.S. official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said Friday.

The official said “the U.S. remains deeply concerned with the human rights situation in North Korea” and continues to urge Kim Jong Un’s regime to “begin to respect human rights, and adhere to international standards on humanitarian assistance.”

In October, the U.N. independent investigator on human rights in the isolated Asian nation said Kim’s summits with the presidents of South Korea and the United States have not changed his country’s abysmal human rights record.

Tomas Ojea Quintana pointed to reports of “systematic, widespread abuses” of human rights and a U.N. commission of inquiry’s findings in 2014 that possible crimes against humanity have been committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name.

Relations between the two Koreas and between the DPRK and the United States have improved since Kim reached out to South Korea and President Donald Trump early this year with a promise to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

U.S.-North Korea talks on the North’s nuclear program haven’t produced much progress since Kim and Trump held the countries’ first summit in Singapore in June. A second summit is expected to take place next year.

Ambassador Kim’s letter recalled that “until last year, the Korean peninsula was a region where possibility of an armed conflict and a nuclear war ran higher than any other region in the world.”

But as a result of the DPRK’s “peace-loving efforts,” he said, “the atmosphere of peace and stability has recently settled down in the Korean peninsula.”

“Nonetheless, to our deep surprise and regret, the Security Council is about to swim against the current trend by way of seeking to irritate a dialogue counterpart and stoke confrontation, instead of encouraging and promoting the ongoing positive developments,” the DPRK ambassador said.

Ambassador Kim called the U.S. move to put the issue on the council agenda “a provocation” and demanded that human rights be discussed at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, not the Security Council.