China, Russia oppose U.N. council meeting on North Korea

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - China and Russia oppose U.S. plans to hold a special meeting this week on human rights in North Korea, which has been accused by a U.N. inquiry of abuses comparable to Nazi-era atrocities, council diplomats said on Monday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (3rd R) and wife Ri Sol Ju (4th L) enjoy an art performance given by the Chongbong Band to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on October 19, 2015. REUTERS/KCNA

The United States, president of the Security Council this month, said last Friday the meeting would take place on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. (1930 GMT). Senior U.N. officials are expected to brief the council.

Several diplomats told Reuters both China and Russia had informed the council of their opposition to the meeting, which has the backing of nine of the 15 council members - Chile, France, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain, Britain and the United States.

“China informed council members that the Security Council has no business with human rights but should look at matters of international peace and security,” one diplomat said, summarizing the Chinese complaint.

Russia, diplomats said, raised a procedural complaint, noting the United States had not raised the issue during a formal discussion last week on the council’s program of work for December.

The Security Council last discussed the issue a year ago.

Last month, China’s U.N. ambassador, Liu Jieyi, said it would be a “bad idea” for the Security Council to hold such a meeting, adding the council “is not about human rights.”

The Security Council added human rights in North Korea to its agenda last year, despite objections by China that led to a rare procedural vote. Beijing is a strong ally of Pyongyang.

Two diplomats said a new procedural vote was likely given the objections of China and Russia to the scheduled meeting. They said Russia and China would likely lose any procedural vote because they cannot use their veto power in such cases.

The missions of China and North Korea have so far not responded to requests for comment on the planned meeting. A spokesman for Russia’s mission declined to comment.

North Korea has denied allegations of systematic human rights abuses, saying such charges are part of a U.S.-led plot to destabilize the country.

A year ago this month, the 193-member U.N. General Assembly urged the Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court after a U.N. Commission of Inquiry detailed wide-ranging abuses in the hermit Asian state.

China is likely to veto any Security Council bid to refer North Korea to the ICC, diplomats said.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Peter Cooney