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UN envoy slams China, Russia for NK falsehoods

By Choi Si-young

Published : March 29, 2023 - 16:10

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Joint efforts by South Korea and the US for North Korea’s denuclearization have been disrupted in part by China and Russia -- the North’s supporters who “wrongly blame” the South and the US for little headway, according to South Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations.

At a press briefing Wednesday held on the sidelines of an annual meeting meant to update the foreign minister on the latest issues, Hwang Joon-kook, the envoy, said Seoul has to fight back against this disinformation campaign by rallying the international community against Beijing and Moscow.

The two contend the annual Seoul-Washington military drills, resumed this month after a five-year hiatus had yielded little on denuclearization, are the reason Pyongyang carries on with its missile launches. They also argue North Korea not only followed through on its disarmament pledge, but needs to be heard in nuclear talks as per United Nations resolutions, which have crippled the isolated country with sanctions.

“That kind of disinformation could work on those countries that really don’t have as much interest or expertise as us as long as North Korea is concerned. Their campaign and everything about it is just wrong,” Hwang said, referring to the last 30 years during which Pyongyang tested weapons when there were no drills.

North Korea did not dial down its aggression even when South Korea had given diplomacy priority over shows of force from 1998 to 2003 -- a period marked by Seoul’s Sunshine Policy -- and the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test ground, which it destroyed in 2018 following the short-lived inter-Korean detente, “hardly reflects the full extent of the disarmament promise,” according to Hwang.

“Lastly, the party refusing dialogue now is North Korea,” he added, referring to the current impasse in ties as North Korea makes nuclear threats in response to the South Korea-US drills. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said Tuesday he wants his country to build an “exponentially bigger” nuclear arsenal for more nuclear bombs. Kim has said sanctions relief has to take place before disarmament.

Meanwhile, Hwang said South Korea is seeking to revive discussion over North Korea’s rights abuses in UN Security Council meetings, an official forum that takes place not only to raise the awareness of international concern but also to sanction countries defying international rules and norms.

In the last three years, China and Russia have blocked efforts to open such discussion officially. The rights abuses and denuclearization are connected, Hwang stressed, saying inattention to the former complicates efforts for the latter.

The envoy, however, did not offer details involving whether Washington and Pyongyang are running behind closed door meetings as before to negotiate terms for talks. But a senior Foreign Ministry official in Seoul said no such negotiations seem to be taking place, given North Koreans have been unresponsive to outreach.

Asked about the possibility of North Korea conducting another nuclear test, the official suggested China and Russia might not be as wholly supportive of the isolated country as before if such a test were to take place. The last test was in 2017.