UNITED NATIONS -- The Security Council on Wednesday was meeting for the second time in a week on North Korea’s increasing ballistic missile and nuclear-related activities, this time at the request of the United States, which effectively blocked a council discussion on the North’s dismal human rights situation.
Stephen Biegun, the Trump administration’s special representative for North Korea, was scheduled to address Wednesday afternoon’s open council meeting. It was taking place less than three weeks before North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s end-of-December deadline for the U.S. to come up with new proposals to revive nuclear diplomacy.
Negotiations faltered after the U.S. rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of the North’s nuclear capabilities at a second summit between President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader last February. North Korea has hinted at lifting its moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests if the Trump administration fails to make substantial concessions before the new year.
North Korea has carried out 13 ballistic missile launches since May and on Sunday it said it had performed a “very important test” at its long-range rocket launch site. South Korea’s defense minister said Pyongyang tested a rocket engine. He did not elaborate but there is wide speculation that the test involved a new engine for either a space launch vehicle or a long-range missile.
The United States holds the Security Council presidency this month and some diplomats have been puzzled at its refusal to sign a letter that would have authorized the Security Council to hold a meeting on the human rights situation in North Korea — after it say it would. Without U.S. support, diplomats said European and other countries that wanted the U.N.'s most powerful body to discuss human rights in North Korea couldn’t go ahead with a meeting that had been expected Tuesday because they were one vote short of the minimum nine votes required.
Instead, A U.S. State Department spokesperson, asked about the human rights meeting, said Monday the U.S. Mission to the United Nations would seek a council discussion this week that would include “a comprehensive update on recent developments on the Korean Peninsula, including recent missile launches and the possibility of an escalatory ... provocation” by North Korea. The State Department made no mention of human rights.