More than 40 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are calling for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and member states, including the United States, Canada, UK, and E.U., to boycott sessions of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament after North Korea took over as chair of the forum on Monday.
The 65-nation Conference on Disarmament (CD), based in Geneva, will see member states discuss issues such as bringing an end to the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament, prevention of nuclear war, and transparency surrounding military weapons and equipment.
The U.N.-backed body, comprised of 65 member states, describes itself as “the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community.”
Both the CD and its predecessor bodies have negotiated historic treaties such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
On Monday, North Korea assumed the presidency of the Conference and will serve a four-week stint in the role until June 24, despite a string of ballistic missile launches by Pyongyang in recent months, sparking outrage from NGOs
Under U.N. rules (pdf), Han Tae Song, North Korean ambassador to the forum, will help to organize the business and timetables of the conference and represent the body in its relations with states, among other things.
A letter signed by the NGOs, including the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, calls on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and member states to “strongly protest North Korea’s absurd chairmanship” of the conference and stage a walkout during its four-week presidency.
“North Korea is a country that threatens to attack other U.N. member states with missiles, and that commits atrocities against its own people,” the letter, led by the executive director of U.N. Watch, Hillel Neuer, reads. “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.”
“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. At a time when China, Cuba, Eritrea, Libya, Kazakhstan, and Venezuela are sitting on the U.N.’s human rights council, this will only further erode the standing of the United Nations.”
The letter also noted that the North Korean regime is the “world’s foremost weapons proliferator” and continues to bolster its 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,” the letter states.
North Korea has launched 17 missile tests this year alone, with the latest launch taking place on May 25, according to South Korea’s military. One of them was suspected to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
South Korea’s National Security Office claims that the North has also been testing a “nuclear detonation device” for “weeks.”
“Operational tests of a nuclear detonation device in preparation for a seventh nuclear test are now being detected,” Kim Tae-hyo, first deputy director of the National Security Office, told local news outlets.
The tests were reportedly being conducted away from the North’s key nuclear testing site, which was being closely monitored by Seoul, Kim added.
“The North Korean authorities are imminently near the final preparation stage for a nuclear test of a scale and quality they want,” he continued. “The possibility of an imminent nuclear test in the next day or two is low, but after that, there is certainly a possibility,” he added.
North Korea is among the six rotating chairs that will preside over this year’s Conference, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ecuador. China, Columbia, and Cuba have already taken up the role so far this year.
The North Korean ambassador said that Cuba had “worked tirelessly and effectively” during its presidency and had done “everything in its power to advance the work of the Conference.”
“The Conference had made substantial work this year through the leadership of the Chinese, Columbian, and Cuban presidencies,” he said. “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would do its utmost to continue to promote the substantive work of the Conference.”
The letter comes shortly after Russia and China vetoed a vote pushed by the United States to strengthen sanctions on North Korea in light of increased ballistic missile launches by Pyongyang.
From The Epoch Times