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West spotlights North Korea rights abuses; China opposes

West spotlights North Korea rights abuses; China opposes

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States, its Western allies and experts shone a spotlight on the dire human rights situation and increasing repression in North Korea at a U.N. meeting Friday that China and Russia denounced as a politicized move likely to further escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula.

China blocked the U.S. from broadcasting the informal Security Council meeting globally on the internet, a decision criticized by U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield as an attempt to hide North Korea’s “atrocities from the world.”

Webcasting requires agreement by all 15 council members. But the U.S. envoy said Beijing’s effort was in vain because the meeting will be made public, and the U.S. and many others will continue to speak out against Pyongyang’s human rights abuses and threats to international peace.

James Turpin, a senior official in the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the ongoing tensions on the Korean peninsula pose a threat to regional and international peace and security, and “these tensions cannot be separated from the dire human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” the North’s official name.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, North Korea has been isolated. The United Nations has no international staff in the country and Turpin said this “coincides with an increase in the repression of civil and political rights.”

He pointed to stronger government measures to prevent people from getting access to information from the outside world, an extreme level of surveillance, people’s homes being subjected to random search for material not authorized by the state, and punishments for anyone trying to exercise basic rights including freedom of expression, religion and peaceful assembly.

Elizabeth Salmon, the U.N. special investigator on human rights in North Korea, also stressed “the interdependence of international peace and security and human rights,” saying peace and denuclearization can’t be addressed without considering the current human rights violations.

She told the meeting that the limited information available shows the suffering of the North Korean people has increased and their already limited liberties have declined. Access to food, medicine and health care remains a priority concern, “people have frozen to death during the cold spells in January,” and some didn’t have money to heat their homes while others were…

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