NEW YORK – North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong took to the floor of the United Nations General Assembly Saturday to reiterate Pyongyang’s right to nuclear weapons and slam U.S. airstrikes in Syria.
Ri also blasted the UN for not addressing the North’s complaint against joint U.S.-South Korea military drills.
“Those provocative joint military operations against the DPRK were forcibly conducted in March – April and in August as well,” Ri told a mostly empty UN General Assembly. “The government of the DPRK officially referred to the Security Council the issue of suspending such war exercises.
However, Ri said the Security Council “turned its back.”
Regarding Syria, Ri said “not a single act should be allowed in any case to encroach upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria under the disguise of counter-terrorism. The Security Council should no longer serve as a forum for telling lies.”
On August 20 then-President of the Security Council Mark Lyall Grant told the press that China had raised the letter from the North Korean ambassador, which requested a Security Council meeting on the U.S.-ROK Ulchi Freedom Guardian Drills, to the UN.
However, Grant said there was “no support” for discussions on the issue. The Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises took place August 18-28.
Ri also criticized Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip this past summer, as well as U.S. support for Israel and UN inaction toward it.
“The Security Council simply ignores civilian killings of the Palestinian people by Israel under the patronage of a permanent member state, but selectively takes issue with only the Syrian government in defense of the sovereignty and stability of the country,” Ri said. “This unjust practice cannot be tolerated.”
Ri asserted DPRK’s right to nuclear weapons for defense purposes.
“The nuclear issue of the Korean peninsula is a matter of sovereignty and right to life of a UN member state before peace and security,” he said. The decision to acquire nuclear arms was made “inevitable” by the “hostile” policy of the U.S., Ri said.
“The nuclear deterrent of the DPRK is not intended to threaten or attack others. Neither is it a bargaining chip to be exchange for something else.”
However, Ri said the North has and will continue to “fulfill its responsibility and role as an independent UN member by steadfastly adhering to these ideals in UN activities.”
Earlier in the day, Ri met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is also the former foreign minister of South Korea. Later, the UN put out a statement expressing appreciation for Ri’s participation in the Climate Change Summit and the General Debate. Of the latter, it was the first time the North had participated in 15 years, the statement said.
The UN did not specify the content of Ri’s letter.
According to the UN statement, Ban told Ri he hopes that all “outstanding issues” will be resolved through dialogue to improve relations on the Korean Peninsula, and also expressed concern about the humanitarian situation.
Picture: Matthew Russell Lee
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