North Korea assumes presidency of U.N. arms control conference

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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In the latest ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ news from the United Nations, North Korea assumed the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament Tuesday.

“Bare months after the U.N. finally suspended Libya’s Col. Muammar Qaddafi from its Human Rights Council, North Korea wins the propaganda coup of heading the world’s disarmament agency,” the executive director of UN Watch Hillel Neuer said in a statement protesting the move. “It’s asking the fox to guard the chickens, and damages the U.N.’s credibility.”

According to the U.N. summary of the meeting, North Korea’s So Se Pyong addressed the 65-member arms control forum, saying that “he was very much committed to the Conference and during his presidency he welcomed any sort of constructive proposals that strengthened the work and credibility of the body.”

Neuer said that though North Korea’s new role as head of the conference, which reports to the U.N. General Assembly, would likely be justified by the U.N. by saying it was the result of a an “automatic rotation,” such an excuse was not sufficient.

“While the U.N. will likely defend North Korea’s appointment as simply an automatic rotation,” he said, “no system should tolerate such a fundamental conflict of interests. It’s common sense that a disarmament body should not be headed by the world’s arch-villain on illegal weapons and nuclear proliferation, notorious for exporting missiles and nuclear know-how to fellow rogue regimes around the globe.”

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The United Nations Security Council has repeatedly passed resolutions condemning North Korea and imposed sanctions on the country for its nuclear and missile tests in recent years. In 2010, the Security Council issued a presidential statement that “deplored” an attack by North Korea on a South Korean ship.

Earlier this month, for the second time in two years, the U.S. Navy also intercepted a North Korean vessel suspected of carrying missile parts destined for Burma. According to U.S. intelligence, the brutal North Korean regime also aided Syria in its covert nuclear program before and after Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007.

Though the Conference on Disarmament is not formally part of the U.N., the organizations are closely tied. The director-general of the U.N. Office at Geneva is the secretary-general of the conference and the U.N. secretary general’s personal representative to the conference.