Photo: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the Security Council on non-proliferation / DPRK. UN Photo/Manuel Elias - Photo: 2017

Security Council Highlights DPRK’s Humanitarian Needs, Agrees on Importance of Communication Channels

By J Nastranis

UNITED NATIONS (IDN) – While expressing his profound concern over the risk of military confrontation on the Korean Peninsula, “including as a result of miscalculation,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has stressed the need to disassociate the peace and security situation in the DPRK (North Korea) from the humanitarian needs in the country.

Seventy per cent of the country’s population is affected by food insecurity and 40 per cent are malnourished and some $114 million is needed to meet urgent requirements. However, the 2017 DPRK Humanitarian Needs and Priorities appeal is only 30 per cent funded, he told the Security Council on December 15.

UN Resident Coordinator in Pyongyang expressed a similar view when the world body released DPRK’s “needs assessment” in March 2017. “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is in the midst of a protracted, entrenched humanitarian situation largely forgotten or overlooked by the rest of the world,” UN Resident Coordinator Tapan Mishra said.

He added: “I appeal to donors not to let political considerations get in the way of providing continued support for humanitarian assistance and relief,” and noted a “radical decline in donor funding since 2012.”

The UN Chief in his remarks to the Security Council has urged UN Member States, in particular those represented in the Security Council, to consider the humanitarian imperatives. “The people of the DPRK need our generosity and help.”

This often-neglected point was stressed by UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman who visited North Korea from December 5 to 8, 2017, and exchanged views on the Korean Peninsula with Foreign Affairs Minister Ri Yong Ho and Vice Foreign Affairs Minister Pak Myong Guk. Feltmann’s visit was the first exchange between the UN Secretariat and Pyongyang officials in almost eight years,

Feltman also met with the UN Country Team and members of the diplomatic corps, and visited UN project sites, including a children’s foodstuff factory, TB prevention institute, breast tumour institute, and pediatric hospital. During the site visits, he learned about the UN’s life-saving work on the ground as well as the challenges in procurement and funding gaps.

Recent events and the prospect of further trouble ahead is likely to make countries that contribute aid even more reluctant to be associated with North Korea, reported IRIN’s Asia Editor, Jared Ferrie.

“The intensification of sanctions and the worsening reputation of North Korea has a huge impact on being able to find donors,” Jenny Town, assistant director of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University told IRIN.

In a Country Brief end of October 2017, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) pointed out that critical funding constraints have forced it to exclude 190,000 children from assistance, starting in November 2017.

WFP DPRK Korea’s operation urgently requires $25.5 million for the next six months, accord to the Country Brief. The negative effects of UN Security Council and bilateral sanctions were evident in WFP’s on-going operation, including a disruption in banking services and international procurement of goods and services.

According to observers, Guterres also had the dire humanitarian situation on mind when he warned in his remarks to the Security Council that the risk of an accidental escalation of tensions leading to conflict was being multiplied by misplaced overconfidence, dangerous narratives and rhetoric, as well as a lack of communication channels.

Briefing Council members on non-proliferation/DPRK, Guterres emphasized that it was time for the immediate re-establishment and strengthening of communications channels, including inter-Korean and military-to- military ones, so as to lower the risk of miscalculation or misunderstanding.

“Any military action would have devastating and unpredictable consequences,” he stressed. “Diplomatic engagement is the only pathway to sustainable peace and denuclearization,” he added, stressing: “We must do everything we can to reach that objective and avoid a level of danger that would be unpredictable in its trajectory and catastrophic in its consequences.”

Underlining the essential role of Council unity in achieving denuclearization, he said it would help to create the space for diplomatic initiatives aimed at realizing that goal in a peaceful manner. “The Secretariat and I are your partner in this effort,” he said, adding: “My good offices are available.” The Secretariat brought impartiality and the norms of peaceful resolution, in accordance with international law, as well as channels of communication with all parties to narrow differences and encourage confidence, Guterres said.

Council members echoed the Secretary-General’s call for unity and avoidance of military conflict, while also expressing sympathy for the plight of the citizens of the DPRK. Most delegates stressed the severity of the threat posed by that country in light of its continued flouting of Council resolutions, its accelerated development of dangerous weapons and its bellicose rhetoric.

Representatives of China, Russian Federation and Bolivia underlined the need to understand that the sanctions had been imposed in order to spark negotiations, and were not an end in themselves. All parties must seek to reduce tensions in order for negotiations to succeed.

They expressed support for the China-Russian Federation road map entailing Pyongyang’s suspension of nuclear-weapons development, accompanied by the suspension of large-scale military exercises by the United States and others. They added that the imposition of unilateral sanctions undermined Council actions, while warning that there was no military solution to the situation.

China’s representative called for an end to provocative rhetoric and actions on all sides by all parties, urging calm, restraint and the creation of the conditions for turning the situation around. China had implemented the Council sanctions comprehensively, paying a higher price than any other States for its compliance, and no one should cast doubt on its actions, he emphasized, calling on all parties to abandon the “cold war thinking” that hung over the issue.

The Russian representative rejected the image of slavery evoked by Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State of the United States, saying that the “most dramatic situation” before the Council was exacerbated by military exercises and confrontational rhetoric. Taunts could lead to irreversible consequences, he warned.

Following statements by Council members, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea described the December meeting as nothing but a desperate measure plotted by the United States, which was terrified by his country’s “ncredible might”, and was pouring astronomical sums into modernizing its nuclear arsenal.

Japan – Council President for the month of December – had also sought to produce such armaments, he added. In that context, Pyongyang’s possession of nuclear weapons was a self-defence measure intended to protect national sovereignty, he said, explaining that it was for that reason that his country had justifiably withdrawn from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Noting that Pyongyang portrayed sanctions as harmful to women and children, U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson said the regime had the capability to feed them if it chose the welfare of its people over the development of weapons. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea could join the community of nations or condemn its people to poverty.

The regime claimed that its nuclear programme was necessary for its security, but it had only made the country less secure. The United States had all options on the table, but did not seek or want war with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he emphasized, expressing hope that diplomacy would produce a resolution.

However, Pyongyang must cease its current behaviour before talks could occur, he affirmed, stressing that his country would continue its campaign of pressure until denuclearization was achieved, while keeping channels of communication open, Tillerson said. [IDN-InDepthNews – 18 December 2017]

Photo: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the Security Council on non-proliferation / DPRK. UN Photo/Manuel Elias

IDN is the flagship agency of International Press Syndicate. –

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