North Korea assumes leadership of top disarmament group
North Korea has temporarily assumed leadership of the United Nations’ premier nuclear disarmament forum.
It comes after the pariah state was suspected of testing an intercontinental ballistic missile earlier this year, something the UN Security Council has banned.
It did, however, take over the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament, which alternates among members.
The move was met with swift criticism of the forum’s efficacy.
Several non-governmental organisations had asked countries to leave the chamber, which is a customary form of diplomatic protest. While member states did not do so at Thursday’s meeting, other countries only sent lower-level officials.
Pyongyang has conducted numerous missile tests in the aftermath of US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to South Korea and Japan.
North Korea is prohibited from testing ballistic and nuclear missiles by the United Nations, and prior tests have resulted in severe sanctions.
The Conference on Disarmament, which takes place three times a year at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, is the world’s sole permanent multilateral forum for negotiating armaments and nuclear treaties.
Its main goal is to put an end to the nuclear weapons race and avoid nuclear war. Since 1996, however, it has failed to create any notable deals.
For at least the next three weeks, North Korea will preside over the forum.
On Thursday, Western powers, many of which have sanctions against Pyongyang, released a united statement criticising North Korea’s aggression this year during the opening session.
On behalf of a coalition of countries, Australia’s ambassador said, “We remain profoundly worried about the DPRK’s reckless actions, which continue to dangerously undermine the basic value of the Conference on Disarmament.”
In response to the appointment, the United States stated that it raised concerns about the effectiveness of the forum.
The option to stay, according to Australia’s ambassador Amanda Gorely, should not be taken as “tacit approval” of North Korea’s record.
The statement, as well as other criticisms, were noted by North Korea’s representative at the meeting.
In his own speech, he reaffirmed his country’s claims of self-defence as a justification for militarisation and stated that it remained committed to global disarmament.