Senior U.S. Official
March 16, 2023
Remarks by a Senior U.S. Official During a Telephonic Background Briefing on a U.S.-Hosted Arria-Formula Meeting on the Human Rights Situation in the DPRK
MODERATOR: Thank you, and welcome to all who are with us today. As mentioned, today’s topic is the Arria-formula meeting on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that the United States will host in the Trusteeship Council at UN Headquarters New York tomorrow, March 17, at 10 a.m. The Arria is co-hosted by the permanent mission of Albania and co-sponsored by the permanent missions of Japan and the Republic of Korea.
As a reminder, this call is on background, and you can attribute what you hear to a senior U.S. official. For your knowledge only and not for reporting purposes, I’m happy to let you know that we have on the line with us today [Senior U.S. Official]. Again, you can attribute what he says to a senior U.S. official. The call is embargoed until its conclusion.
And with that, I will ask [Senior U.S. Official] to kick us off. [Senior U.S. Official]?
SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Great. Thanks, [Moderator]. Good morning, everybody. To start, I want to reiterate that the U.S. strongly condemns the DPRK’s intercontinental ballistic missile test. This launch is a flagrant violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions. It needlessly raises tensions and risks destabilizing the security situation in the region. And it only demonstrates that the DPRK continues to prioritize its unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs over the wellbeing of the country’s people.
Look, this is just one reason why we, along with Albania, will host an Arria-formula meeting on the human rights situation in the DPRK tomorrow. We are pleased to welcome Japan and ROK as co-sponsors. And this meeting is intended to a shed light on the DPRK’s ongoing human rights violations and abuses and give us an opportunity to underscore how these violations and abuses are inextricably linked with the threats to international peace and security posed by the DPRK’s unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs.
The meeting will also identify opportunities for the international community to promote the human rights and dignity of North Koreans. So, as many of you know, last month the U.S. and 61 other co-sponsors sent a letter to the Council requesting that it remain seized with the human rights situation in the DPRK. And this is twice as many signatories as 2022 – again, highlighting the growing interest of the international community on this crucial issue.
So, the U.S., we’re still concerned about the human rights situation in the DPRK, and we are committed to placing human rights at the center of our foreign policy, and I think President Biden has made that clear over and over again. The DPRK continues to exploit its own citizens and divert resources from the country’s people to build up its unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs.
As you all know, the DPRK, it’s among the most repressive, authoritarian states in the world, and the human rights situation is, frankly, deplorable. We continue to work with the international community to raise awareness, highlight the abuses and violations, and increase access to independent information and promote respect for human rights in the DPRK.
We would still like to see an open briefing on this topic in the Council in 2023, where we can discuss the human rights violations and abuses committed by the DPRK and, frankly, their implications for peace and security.
So, we remain committed to diplomacy with the DPRK. As we’ve said many times, we stand ready to meet with the DPRK without preconditions. Unfortunately, DPRK has not responded to our repeated calls for dialogue. Instead, it has engaged in an unprecedented number of ballistic missile launches and other provocations, including yesterday’s ICBM launch.
So, we’re in close contact with our allies and partners in the region as we assess the latest provocation. So, for decades, the U.S. has championed efforts, as you all know, to promote and improve respect for human rights and dignity of North Koreans, including members of the most vulnerable populations, and to hold the regime in Pyongyang accountable for the egregious human rights record.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, but right now the people born under the DPRK regime do not enjoy their inherent rights. The repression of 25 million people in North Korea, frankly, is a travesty beyond measure. The human rights violations and abuses of the DPRK’s repressive regime are well documented. Many – by many reports, DPRK’s totalitarian government holds between 80 – excuse me, 80,000 and 120,000 people in political prison camps, where they suffer abuses, including torture, forced labor, summary executions, starvation, and gender-based violence.
I think many of you are aware that there was a UN commission of inquiry that determined in 2014 that these violations amount to crimes against humanity. So those not in political prison camps are refused fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, information, and association. These human rights are further restricted by the DPRK’s adoption of the Law on Rejecting Reactionary Ideology and Culture in December of 2020, and these abuses have been exacerbated by the regime’s implementation of measures supposedly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which have reportedly included threats of execution for spreading misinformation.
So, look, to recap, the regime’s ongoing human rights violations are inextricably linked with the country’s unlawful and destabilizing weapons program, and the country’s repressive political climate – and I think this is important – allows a coercive system of governance that diverts resources to weapons development even as North Korea’s citizens suffer from severe economic hardship and malnutrition.
Another point I want to emphasize is that forced labor and labor exploitation, both domestically and overseas, also play a role in sustaining the government and generating the revenue it uses to fund its weapons programs.
So, this is why we look forward to hosting tomorrow’s Arria-formula meeting, and we’re grateful that Albania is taking a lead role with us to address this global concern. And my last point will be the Security Council must address this crucial issue, formally and openly.
So let me stop there and I look forward to your questions.
MODERATOR: Thank you, [Senior U.S. Official]. Again, if you joined late, this call is on background, and you can attribute what you hear to a senior U.S. official. At this time, I’ll ask our AT&T moderator to review the instructions for joining the queue for questions, and then we’ll proceed.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to ask a question, please press 1 then 0 on your telephone keypad. You may withdraw your question at any time by repeating the 1-0 command. If you are using a speaker phone, please pick up the handset before pressing the numbers. Once again, if you have a question, please press 1 then 0 at this time.
We’ll go to Toshi Inaba with Kyodo News Agency. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you, [Senior U.S. Official]. This is Toshi Inaba from Kyodo News, a Japanese news agency. Thank you for this opportunity. Having witnessed the DPRK’s ICBM launch, are you going to call for another meeting on this matter? And another question is: Isn’t there a choice to open a formal briefing instead of this Arria-formula meeting, and put a vote on whether you are going to have that meeting in public or in a closed manner? Thank you.
SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Thank you for your questions. Look, I don’t have any Security Council meetings to announce at this point, but I think it’s very clear: this launch shows the urgency of the matter, and we are working with our allies and partners on next steps in the Council.
With regard to an open briefing, obviously we support all Council activities to be as transparent and open as possible, and we will work in the future very closely with our partners and allies on this issue and bring it to the attention of the global community in the best ways possible.
MODERATOR: Thank you, [Senior U.S. Official]. Operator let’s go to the next question here. And a reminder, please just one question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. Next, we’ll go to the line of Jamin Anderson with Radio Free Asia. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: Can you hear me?
SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay, good. Thank you for taking my question. According to Reuters, this morning China has blocked the broadcasting of the meeting. Is there any way for the U.S. and other member-states to proceed with the broadcasting as planned? And also, if I can ask one more question: There are many North Korean defectors detained in China, and at least they’ll be repatriated. Will the issue be discussed during the meeting? And yeah, that’s the question. Thank you.
SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Thanks for your questions. Look, I think as we’ve seen in press reports, China has, frankly, decided to block broadcasts of this meeting that we want to have on human rights in the DPRK. We will continue to push to make sure that there is a full hearing on this issue. We are pursuing other options at this point, but I don’t want to get ahead of it. But we obviously are very concerned about the step that China appears to be taking.
What was your follow-up question, your other question? Excuse me.
OPERATOR: One moment, let me open her line back up.
MODERATOR: No, let’s move on to the next. We don’t have much more time and I’d like to give others an opportunity to ask a question.
OPERATOR: Okay, I have no further questions in queue.
MODERATOR: No further questions? Okay, [Senior U.S. Official], it looks like I can get you out of here on time. All right. Thank you again, [Senior U.S. Official], and thank you all for joining. That’s all the time we have today. Again, this call has been on background, and you can attribute what you heard to a senior U.S. official. At this time, the embargo is now lifted, and I wish you all a great day. Thanks.
SENIOR U.S. OFFICIAL: Thanks, everyone.