UN names North Korea chair of arms control agency

GENEVA — A Geneva-based human rights group today called on the US and the EU to strongly protest the U.N.’s appointment of North Korea as head of its Conference on Disarmament, a 65-member arms control forum. (For the official UN announcement, see “Democratic People’s Republic Of Korea Assumes Presidency Of The Conference On Disarmament.”)

“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,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch. “It’s asking the fox to guard the chickens, and damages the U.N.’s credibility.”

“While the U.N. will likely defend North Korea’s appointment as simply an automatic rotation,” said Neuer, “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.”

The UN Security Council has repeatedly condemned North Korea for launching rockets, and has imposed sanctions related to its development of nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction. Earlier this month, the US Navy intercepted a North Korean ship suspected of illegally carrying missile parts to Burma.

The Conference of Disarmament reports to the UN General Assembly and is billed by the UN as “the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community.”

According to a UN summary, North Korea’s So Se Pyong assumed the presidency yesterday, assuring the panel that he was “very much committed to the Conference.” He invited proposals to strengthen “the work and credibility of the body,” and said he would do “everything in his capacity to move the Conference on Disarmament forward.”

“All of the delegations who took the floor,” reported the UN’s summary, welcomed the North Korean’s presidency, and said that “they looked forward to his stewardship” and to working with him “to revitalize and strengthen the Conference.” Those listed as having taken the floor were Canada, the UK, India, China, Nigeria, Portugal, Iran, Myanmar, Algeria, and UN official Jarmo Sareva.

According to the UN summary of speeches, China’s Wang Qun “welcomed the presidency of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” Nigeria’s Kayode Laro said “the presidency of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would have the full support of the Nigerian delegation.”

In an earlier meeting last week, Iran’s Mohammad Hassan Daryaei said, “I would also like to congratulate the distinguished ambassador of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the assumption of the presidency and assure him of my delegation’s full support and cooperation.”

4 Responses to “UN names North Korea chair of arms control agency”


  • Joel Scott Strauss

    The UN is getting crazy more than ever. The US, Israel, and other democracies must withdraw from the UN. It is not a peace oriented organization.

  • This statement requires some additional information for clarification:

    1. The Conference on Disarmament was established by a Special Session on Disarmament, it is not a body under the General Assembly. It is most certainly not the “world’s disarmament agency”. It is a negotiating forum, which has not been able to conclude negotiations since 1996.

    2. The Conference on Disarmament rotates its presidency following its rules of procedure. Some states choose not to serve their terms, most do. The rules of procedure are a consensual agreement amongst the 65 member states. It is incorrect to state that the UN named North Korea as the conference president. The rules of procedure were last updated in 2003, and continue to follow the rotation which began in 1979.

    3. Wouldn’t you rather see DPRK talking about disarmament than not? I don’t understand the purpose of your statement unless it is solely an inflammatory one. If you want to talk about foxes guarding chickens, perhaps a better angle to take would have been the permanent five members of the UN Security Council are the only countries that have tested nuclear weapons before 1967, and therefore the only recognized nuclear weapons states. How can these five countries be entrusted to enhance global security when they have consistently diverted funds from human security instead spending on developing and maintaining nuclear weapons?

  • Of course it is difficult to make a world common organisation like the UN to work as it should. It’s strength and weakness lies in having as many countries as possible inside the organisation. Excluding countries would make it more difficult to influence their behavior on the humanitarian front. On the other hand, it must be possible to find a process, by which regimes must qualify for membership or chairmanship in the different UN bodies. Totalitarian states like Libya as members of the Human Rights Council or nuclear proliferators like North Korea as chair of the arms control agency, just makes great harm to the credibility of the UN as a whole.

  • *** Of course it is difficult to make a world common organisation like the UN to work as it should. It’s strength and weakness lies in having as many countries as possible inside the organisation. ***

    It’s not difficult, it’s impossible. Even in big private companies there is plenty of such bureaucratic insanity. But the UN and its branches are way beyond the optimal size for organization of any kind. They don’t have competition, they work by consensus or majority, which means they act at the level of the lowest common denominator. The UN is a monster, but luckily it mostly does not have real teeth.

    Sensible people treat the UN for what it is – a source of free entertainment. The UN is a mindless but slightly amusing circus. Of course you will always have people like Susi who would draw parallels between the permanent five members of the UN Security Council and North Korea. But most of us, we don’t live on the Moon.

Leave a Reply