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UN condemns North Korea rights violations and nuke spending

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, sixth from left, visits the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where the body of late leader Kim Jong Il is laid, in Pyongyang, North Korea, Monday, Dec. 17, 2018. North Koreans are marking the seventh anniversary of the death of leader Kim Jong Il with visits to statues and vows of loyalty to his son and successor, Kim Jong Un. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly on Monday condemned North Korea’s “systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights” and its diversion of resources into pursing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles over the welfare of its people.

It noted “with concern” that over 10 million North Koreans are estimated to be undernourished and that there is “an unacceptably high prevalence of chronic and acute malnutrition” in the reclusive northeast Asian nation.

The resolution, sponsored by Japan and the European Union, was adopted by consensus, though countries including Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela disassociated themselves from it. Many expressed opposition to assembly resolutions singling out specific countries and said the Geneva-based Human Rights Council should deal with rights issues.

North Korea’s U.N. ambassador, Kim Song, said his country “categorically rejects” the resolution, calling it “a product of (a) political plot and hostile forces.”

He accused Japan of “provoking confrontation” with North Korea “by going back against the main trend in (the) Korean peninsula” when delicate political negotiations are underway.

Since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reached out to South Korea and the United States early this year, the two Korean leaders have met several times and Kim held a historic summit with President Donald Trump — with another one expected in the new year. But there has been no significant progress on Kim’s commitment to nuclear disarmament, and as a result no lifting of U.N. or U.S. sanctions against North Korea.

The resolution’s approval followed the U.S. failure to get enough votes to discuss North Korea’s human rights record in the Security Council a week ago. It had succeeded for the last four years, and diplomats said the U.S. is likely to try again in the new year when five new members join the council.

A statement released Monday by North Korea’s U.N. Mission noted opposition to the U.S. move and asserted again that the Security Council “is neither a place for discussion on any human rights issue nor a platform where a human rights issue is politicized to flare up confrontation.”

Whatever the change in the Security Council’s composition, North Korea said it shouldn’t be used as a platform “where U.S.’s high-handedness and arbitrary practice would prevail.”

The General Assembly resolution adopted Monday expresses “very serious concern” at reports of torture, detention, rape, public executions, the imposition of the death penalty, the absence of the rule of law, and “collective punishments extending up to three generations.”

It also expressed concern at forced labor in North Korea and its “extensive system of political prison camps where a vast number of persons are deprived of their liberty and subjected to deplorable conditions” as well as “all-pervasive and severe restrictions, both online and offline, on the freedoms of thought, conscience, religion or belief, opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association.”

The resolution condemns “the systematic abduction, denial of repatriation and subsequence enforced disappearance of persons, including those from other countries, on a large scale.”

It “acknowledges” the findings of the U.N. commission of inquiry on North Korea in 2014. The commission said testimony and information it gathered “provide reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the state for decades and by institutions under the effective control of its leadership.”

The General Assembly strongly urged North Korea “to immediately put an end to the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights” by fully implementing U.N. resolutions and recommendations including closing prison camps and releasing all political prisoners.

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