In light of the deteriorating relations between the United States and North Korea, the White House has decided to postpone a meeting on Tuesday, December 10 on human rights abuse by members of the United Nations Security Council. The move aims to deescalate tensions as international criticism over North Korea's atrocities was likely to affect relations between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

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Bystanders holding North Korea and US flags.Reuters

Meeting on Human Rights Day, December 10 cancelled

The meeting, which was scheduled to take place on Human Rights Day celebrated on December 10 every year, was cancelled despite eight members of the UN council who had signed the letter requesting the meeting. The crucial ninth member of the council, the US, declined to sign it in the last moment, UN officials were quoted as saying to Foreign Policy. The move is the second such postponement of UN talks on human rights abuses in North Korea that was blocked due to US interests. 

While the State Department in a recent statement did not comment on the talks related to human rights, it said that the US continues its plan to propose the UN Security Council talks with North Korea this week. It said that the talks will discuss "a comprehensive update on recent developments on the Korean Peninsula, including recent missile launches and the possibility of an escalation DPRK provocation." The council will table the issues on Wednesday. 

On Sunday, Pyongyang announced that it had conducted a "very important test" at one of its missile sites. The test has sparked tensions among US experts who have stated that the test is likely to have been an engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile or satellite launcher. Trump responded to the test saying that Jong-un could "lose everything" if he continued to conduct military provocation ahead of the US 2020 presidential elections. 

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A view of North Korea's missile launch on Thursday, in this undated picture released by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 26, 2019.KCNA/via REUTERS

Senior North Korean official, Kim Yong Chol called Trump a "heedless and erratic old man" and said the US pressure for denuclearisation will not be caved in my North Korea.  The removal of human rights issues from the discussions was largely criticised by members of the UN human rights groups.

Trump administration gives preference to diplomatic relations? 

While the US under President Barack Obama's administration in 2014 drew attention to atrocities in the country by convening a meeting on Human Rights Day, the Trump administration has repeatedly given preference to diplomatic relations. Despite supporting the UN council's meeting on human rights violation in North Korea in 2017, the meeting was postponed in 2018 citing 'lack of support in the council'. 

"Once again, the US has prevented the UN Security Council from scrutinizing North Korea's abysmal human rights record, apparently because of President Trump's special relationship with Kim Jong Un," Louis Charbonneau, the UN director for Human Rights Watch told FP. 

"By blocking this meeting, the Trump administration is sending a message to Kim that the US no long considers arbitrary detention, starvation, torture, summary executions, sexual violence and other crimes again the North Korean people a priority," Charbonneau added. "North Korea and many other abusive governments can now rest assured that they have little to fear from the Trump administration when it comes to human rights," he said.