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Over 30 UN members rap N. Korea over ongoing rights abuses

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, center, reads out a statement on the human rights situation in North Korea at U.N. headquarters in New York on Dec. 9, 2022. (Kyodo)

NEW YORK (Kyodo) -- A group of 31 U.N. member states including the United States, Japan and South Korea criticized North Korea on Friday for neglecting its people's needs to pursue weapons development and persisting in alleged human rights abuses.

    In a joint statement, the members also urged Pyongyang to resolve the issue of people who were abducted from Japan and South Korea to North Korea.

    The United States, Japan and five European countries released a similar statement regarding North Korea last year, but a larger number of countries, including Ukraine and South Korea, backed the latest effort.

    "By many reports, the DPRK's totalitarian government holds more than 100,000 people in political prison camps," the statement said, referring to North Korea's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

    "The country's repressive political climate allows a coercive system of governance that diverts resources to weapons development -- even as North Korean citizens suffer from severe economic hardship and malnutrition," it said.

    Mentioning the abductions by Pyongyang of people from Japan and South Korea, the countries urged it "to resolve all outstanding issues with detainees, abductees, and disappeared and immediately return them to their homes."

    Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, read out the statement ahead of a closed-doors debate at the world body's Security Council on the human rights situation in North Korea on Friday.

    The Security Council held open sessions on the topic each December from 2014 to 2017, but since 2018 the move has been blocked by Russia and China, two of the council's five permanent members with veto power.

    "We urge all Security Council members to support an open briefing in 2023" to discuss the human rights violations and abuses by North Korea, the statement said.

    North Korea has test-launched ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles, at an unprecedented pace since earlier this year in defiance of past U.N. Security Council resolutions.

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