United Nations – North Korea says it will respond “very strongly” to a conference in Washington on Tuesday about its widespread human rights abuses and says the United States ignored Pyongyang’s offer to attend and defend itself.
North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador Jang Il Hun told reporters Monday he could not predict what a strong response might be.
“The U.S. ignored our request for participation because they are afraid of disclosure of their plot” that North Korea maintains is based on fabrications and lies, Jang said.
He said North Korea asked the U.S. government to “immediately scrap the so-called conference,” which will be hosted by the nonprofit Center for Strategic & International Studies. Speakers include Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues.
North Korea has been on the defensive ever since a groundbreaking U.N. commission of inquiry detailed vast rights abuses there. International pressure behind last year’s report led to the U.N. Security Council placing the issue on its agenda of matters of international peace and security.
Jang said he sent a formal request to his counterpart in the State Department and that the counterpart responded that the event was not a government one. “That means our request was denied,” Jang said.
North Korea and the United States do not have formal diplomatic relations, but Jang is tasked with communicating through the so-called “New York channel” that the country’s U.N. mission uses to reach out to U.S. officials at times. Jang said his communication to the U.S. was only about the conference.
There was no immediate comment from the State Department or an organizer of the CSIS event. Jang called the conference “a purely government event” in nature. North Korea has repeatedly said the U.S. and its allies use the human rights issue to attack it, and it has started demanding that the U.S. should instead look into the CIA’s “torture crimes.”
The General Assembly in December approved a resolution that urged the council to refer North Korea’s human rights situation to the International Criminal Court, and the head of the commission of inquiry earlier in the year wrote to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warning that he could be held accountable for crimes against humanity.
“We are not guilty of any crime,” Jang said Monday, smiling.
But alarmed by anything targeting their young leader, North Korean diplomats briefly proposed last year that the U.N. high commissioner for human rights visit could visit their country if the U.N. resolution would drop the language about Kim and the ICC.
Jang on Monday told reporters that chance had passed. “Once it’s gone, we have to start all over again,” he said.
He repeated North Korea’s request for the complete list of the dozens of North Korea defectors who testified for the commission of inquiry, saying his country could then “give a clear answer” to each and every one. Many witnesses testified under terms of anonymity for their protection. A similar request to the U.N. secretary-general earlier this month brought no reply, Jang said.
On other matters, Jang said he could not predict whether Kim would come to the United Nations in September to address the General Assembly of world leaders. Kim is expected to make his first trip abroad in May, to Russia.