General Assembly: 77th Plenary Meeting, 76th Session

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08-Jun-2022 03:03:06
General Assembly holds landmark debate on Security Council’s veto of draft text aimed at tightening sanctions against Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

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After China and the Russian Federation vetoed a draft resolution in the Security Council on 26 May aimed at tightening the sanctions regime against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the General Assembly today held a debate on the issue, with speakers expressing diverging views on that country’s actions related to nuclear non-proliferation and security in the Korean Peninsula.

The meeting was the result of a landmark Assembly resolution adopted on 26 April that established a standing mandate for a debate of the 193-member organ when a veto is cast in the Council by one or more of its permanent members. The Assembly had decided that its President shall convene a formal meeting within 10 working days on the situation to which the veto was cast.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, underscoring that a sovereign State has the right to self-defence, said his country is bolstering its defence capabilities to prepare for a potential security crisis on the Korean Peninsula and in the region, and to cope with the United States’ hostile threats. It has carried out weapon tests in the safest manner, he said, pointing out that no harm was done to neighbouring countries. The issue under discussion is a breach of international law by the United States and the Council’s draft resolution is a product of that country’s illegal hostile policy, he said, wondering why missile tests conducted by the United States have never been called into question or condemned by the Council.

Warning that international relations are being transformed into a “new cold war” owing to the United States’ unilateral and unfair external policy, he said that, if that country’s double standards continue, the Council can neither fulfil its responsibility for maintaining international peace and security nor restore the trust of the international community.

The speaker for the United States, warning that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s repeated launches of missiles threaten the world, said that country has launched 31 ballistic missiles since the beginning of this year in violation of multiple Council resolutions adopted by consensus. The use of the veto by China and the Russian Federation in the Council has given the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea tacit approval as that country finalizes preparations for a seventh nuclear test. Those actions have been unprovoked, he said, noting that the Biden Administration has sought a dialogue without preconditions, and has also offered international aid to the that country and to deliver vaccines to its people.

Defending its position, China’s representative said his country had no choice but to vote against the draft resolution put forth by the United States given the lack of consensus. Pointing out that the situation had been easing in the past few years, he said “the Peninsula situation has developed to what it is today primarily due to the flip-flop of United States policies, its failure to uphold the results of previous dialogue and its disregard for the reasonable concerns of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” The draft resolution proposed jointly by China and the Russian Federation aims to alleviate the suffering and livelihood-related difficulties of the people of that country, and injecting momentum into the political settlement, he said, encouraging all parties to support that text.

The Russian Federation’s speaker said her delegation had also voted against the text tabled by the United States in the Council, stressing that a document in favour of new sanctions would worsen the humanitarian situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Noting that such restricted measures have failed to guarantee security on the Korean Peninsula, she said Pyongyang took positive steps to improve the situation, but the Council did not respond appropriately. The United States’ proposal of introducing new sanctions is irresponsible, she said, pointing out that, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a shortage of medical supplies, food, agricultural equipment and other essential goods in the country.

The European Union’s representative, in its capacity as observer, said that, while some speakers might argue that United Nations sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are insensitive to the plight of its people, they include a system of comprehensive humanitarian exemptions that can facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid. The resolution vetoed would have strengthened this system to also include exemptions for all products related to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 1995, the bloc has been at the forefront of efforts to alleviate the suffering in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea through the funding of independent humanitarian organizations working in the country and it stands ready to resume their assistance.

The representative of the Republic of Korea expressed regret that the Council, for the first time in handling the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes since 2006, has failed to respond to the country’s serious provocations. Contrary to the argument that the Council’s silence would induce restraint and dialogue from that country, it has launched the largest number of ballistic missiles this year, including eight last Saturday alone — the largest number thus far in a single day. “We urge the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to stop such provocative actions, abide by all relevant Council resolutions and respond to the call for dialogue and peace on the Korean Peninsula through complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” he said.

Japan’s representative, in a similar vein, said that, by repeatedly launching 60 or more ballistic missiles since 2019, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has continued to increase the level of threat to the region and beyond. The Council’s silence, due to the exercise of the veto, has left this grave situation unaddressed. “The credibility of the Council is at stake,” he said, stressing that “the vetoed draft resolution was well balanced”. Pointing out that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the only country to have carried out nuclear tests in the twenty-first century, he urged Pyongyang to engage in diplomacy towards denuclearization and accept the repeated offers of dialogue, as well as strive to improve its humanitarian situation.

Many countries echoed calls on Pyongyang to cease developing weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, with Mexico’s representative pointing out that his country has on many occasions condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s continued development of a nuclear and ballistic weapons programme. Stressing that the veto is an act of power and does not promote unity, he urged Member States to support the Franco-Mexican initiative to voluntarily restrict use of the veto in cases of mass atrocities.

However, Syria’s representative, like other speakers, expressed concern about the political exploitation of resolutions by certain actors. The implementation of sanctions against a number of Member States makes the people of these countries the biggest losers, he said.

In the afternoon, the Assembly debated and then adopted by a recorded vote a draft resolution on the status of internally displaced persons and refugees from Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia.

Georgia’s representative, introducing the text, said it addresses the humanitarian plight of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons and refugees of different ethnic backgrounds expelled from the regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali in his country due to multiple waves of ethnic cleansing. “Supporting the resolution puts moral pressure on the participants of the Geneva International Discussions to fulfil their obligations,” he said, urging Member States to vote in favour of the text.

Canada’s delegate, speaking also for Australia and New Zealand, said the human rights situation has gravely deteriorated due to the process of so‑called “borderization” — the erection of razor‑barbed‑wire fences and the creation of other artificial obstacles along the administrative boundary line — as well as the denial of access to international human rights monitors to the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. Moreover, the illegal and unjust Russian invasion of Ukraine is another stark example of why the international community must condemn the Russian Federation’s repeated aggression against its neighbours and support the rights of all forcibly displaced persons.

Likewise, Ukraine's representative said “Russia does not stop at Georgia”, and pointed to the Russian Federation’s invasion against his country in 2014 and its full-scale invasion in February. “The aggressor must and will be stopped to bring peace, security and prosperity back to the region,” he said.

Countering that view, the Russian Federation’s speaker, who requested a vote on the draft, said the text aimed exclusively at undermining normalization in the region and pressuring the sovereign states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia and its partners must demonstrate through actions their commitment to a constructive solution to humanitarian issues based on the principles of peaceful coexistence.

Assembly President Abdulla Shahid (Maldives) also spoke today on the issue on non-proliferation/Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Also speaking on the Security Council special report were representatives of Denmark (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Luxembourg (on behalf of the Benelux countries), Liechtenstein, Albania, Ecuador, Ireland, Costa Rica, Türkiye, Austria, Bulgaria, Singapore, France, Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, Switzerland, Poland, Norway, Dominican Republic, Jordan, Czech Republic, Marshall Islands, Canada, Kuwait, New Zealand, Germany, Malaysia, Italy, South Africa, Estonia, Slovenia, Croatia, Iran, Latvia, Romania, Peru, Federated States of Micronesia, United Kingdom, Palau, Thailand, Iraq and Paraguay.

Speaking in right of reply were the representatives of China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Also speaking today on the status of internally displaced persons and refugees form Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, Georgia were the representatives of Lithuania (on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic States), Japan, Italy, United Kingdom and Venezuela, as well as the European Union and the Permanent Observer of the Holy See.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m., on Thursday, 9 June, to elect five non-permanent members of the Security Council to replace the members whose term of office expires on 31 December and consider its agenda entitled “Notification by the Secretary-General under Article 12, paragraph 2, of the Charter of the United Nations” of matters relative to the maintenance of international peace and security that are being dealt with by the Council, and of the matters with which the Council has ceased to deal.

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