N. Korea Debate Set for UN Security Council After Assembly Vote

The United Nations Security Council will convene its first meeting next week on North Korea’s treatment of human rights as pressure builds in the world body to hold the totalitarian regime accountable for abuses.

The General Assembly, the UN’s main deliberative organ, today adopted a resolution urging the International Criminal Court to prosecute leader Kim Jong Un for committing atrocities that were documented by independent UN investigators in a February report. There were 116 votes in favor, 20 against and 53 abstentions.

The resolution, endorsed by the UN’s human rights committee last month, has been condemned by the North Korean government, which is sensitive to any criticism or ridicule of its dynastic regime. The Security Council debate will come amid the uproar over a cyber-attack that crippled Sony Picture Entertainment’s computers and forced the studio to pull a satirical American movie about a plot to assassinate Kim.

Three Security Council diplomats said next week’s debate will focus mostly on the findings of the UN commission of inquiry’s 400-page report.

It’s unlikely the cyber-attack on Sony will be discussed before the council, they said, asking not to be named under diplomatic protocol. Nor will next week’s briefing result in any new Security Council resolutions or statements, the diplomats said.

Ten Security Council members, including the U.S., South Korea and European nations, requested the briefing by UN officials on North Korea, with a focus on human rights in the impoverished nation.

First Time

The session on Dec. 22 will be the first time the UN’s most powerful body discusses North Korea beyond debating its role in nuclear-weapons proliferation. China, the North’s most powerful ally and neighbor, opposes such a meeting and signaled that it may try to stop it from happening.

Any Chinese attempt to keep North Korea off the council’s radar is likely to be foiled because it can’t wield its veto over procedural votes on agenda items.

The last time a Security Council member tried to block an issue from being discussed was in September 2006, when China unsuccessfully sought a procedural vote against including Myanmar on the agenda.

Ja Song Nam, North Korea’s ambassador to the UN, submitted a letter on Dec. 15 denouncing the request for a briefing on North Korea’s human-rights issue as a “politically fabricated” maneuver, saying the council should deal instead with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s past use of torture.

North Korea briefly waged a charm offensive in October in an effort to block the human rights committee from adopting its resolution calling for Kim to be put on trial, offering access to the isolated country for UN inspectors in return. That ended when European nations wouldn’t back down on the resolution.