At a news conference held on June 21st at United Nations headquarters in New York, UN Ambassador Sin Son Ho of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (referred to in short as North Korea or DPRK) accused the United States of being “entirely responsible for the ever-worsening situation on the Korean Peninsula.” In his rare appearance before a packed room of reporters, he warned that the “DPRK will never give up its nuclear deterrent unless the US fundamentally and irreversibly abandons its hostile policy and nuclear threat toward the DPRK.”
Ambassador Sin Son Ho charged that the United States was using the misnamed “UN Command,” which is the unified command structure for the military forces led by the United States that have supported South Korea during and after the Korean War, “as a tool for an aggressive war” against North Korea. He repeatedly called for the dissolution of the UN Command, which he said has nothing really to do with the United Nations system. “The US is dishonoring the United Nations by abusing the name of ‘UN Command’ as if the United Nations is a warring party in the Korean War,” he said. “Like so, the dignity and fairness of the UN is so much damaged.”
North Korea’s ambassador added that the United States was defiantly rejecting his government’s proposal to replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement with “a Peace Treaty.” North Korea, he said, had offered to conduct senior-level talks between North Korea and the United States to pursue North Korea’s peace proposal. Instead of embracing this offer and agreeing to dissolve its command that was “abusing” the UN name, the United States was seeking to transform the UN Command into a multinational force command which, the ambassador declared, “would serve as a matrix of the Asian version of NATO.”
Switching from its months of dangerously bellicose military threats against the United States and South Korea, North Korea is now trying to paint itself as the “peace loving” victim of U.S. aggressive designs. It is exploiting the platform it has at the United Nations as a member state to lodge its mendacious verbal attacks.
Turning history on its head, Ambassador Sin Son Ho claimed that the Korean War started because South Korea had invaded North Korea. In truth, it was the other way around. North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950. The UN Security Council responded with several resolutions. These included Resolution 83, recommending that members of the United Nations provide assistance to the Republic of Korea “to repel the armed attack and to restore international peace and security to the area,” and Resolution 84, adopted on July 7, 1950, recommending that members providing military forces and other assistance to South Korea “make such forces and other assistance available to a unified command under the United States of America.” The military forces of over a dozen member states participated in the war, which were overseen by the United States in a unified command structure that became known as the United Nations Command.
The North Korean ambassador is technically right that the title for the command should be something other than “United Nations Command,” since it is not under UN control. But North Korea is not simply looking for a name change to correct false labeling. It wants the force completely dissolved, no matter what name is attached to it. However, since the force is located within South Korea with South Korea’s full consent, it is South Korea’s sovereign decision alone whether to continue hosting the U.S.-led forces, whatever their formal title happens to be. North Korea has no more say in this matter than South Korea has in telling North Korea whom it may invite into its sovereign territory. Moreover, North Korea’s own incredible military build-up, continuous pattern of acts of aggression and threats against South Korea and the United States since the signing of the Armistice Agreement in 1953 render North Korea’s complaints completely hollow.
Nearly a million North Koreans have starved to death since the 1990s. North Korea has allowed this calamity to happen while it diverts its scare resources to feed its vast military machine. North Korea’s military expenditures are approximately 22.3% of its gross domestic product. South Korea’s percentage is approximately 2.8%.
North Korea’s active military force eclipses in size the combined active forces of South Korea and the United States stationed in South Korea.
North Korea’s total active duty military personnel strength is approximately 1.2 million. By comparison, South Korea’s active duty armed forces number nearly 700,000, backed by about 28,500 U.S. troops assigned to South Korea.
There are no nuclear weapons permanently located in South Korea. In fact, President George H. Bush’s unilateral nuclear disarmament initiative, announced on September 27, 1991, led to a withdrawal of all nuclear weapons from South Korea by December 1991.
North Korea has gone in the opposite direction. Beginning in 2006, it has conducted nuclear bomb tests of increasing power. North Korea has also tested medium and long-range missiles with potential nuclear weapons delivery capabilities.
“Where in the past, there may have been some ambiguity about what North Korea was seeking to achieve, there is a clear recognition that they are pressing toward a nuclear capability with a potential longer-range delivery,” Kurt Campbell, the top U.S. diplomat for Asia from 2009 until earlier this year, said at a forum this past May in Seoul.
United States and South Korean attempts at engagement and negotiation have been met with more acceleration of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea’s UN ambassador added to his credibility problems with his preposterous assertion that his country does not have any human rights problem. As Amnesty International more accurately described the situation in North Korea: “Millions of people in North Korea suffer extreme forms of repression and human rights violations that violate nearly the entire spectrum of their human rights. Hundreds of thousands of people—including children—are arbitrarily held in political prison camps and other detention facilities where they are subjected to human rights violations like forced labour, denial of food as punishment, torture and public executions.”
Ambassador Sin Son Ho blamed his country’s economic woes on the imposition of economic sanctions, which he labeled “the blackmail policy of the United States.” He failed to acknowledge that China, with whom the ambassador said North Korea still has “friendly relations,” co-drafted the latest Security Council sanctions resolution against North Korea which passed unanimously.
In sum, the North Korean ambassador ranted on for over an hour from his UN-provided soapbox with the kind of propaganda, vicious anti-U.S. rhetoric and self-congratulatory praise of his own country’s supposed peaceful intentions that hearkened back to the dark days of the Cold War.
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