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Yun questions North’s UN membership

Mar 02,2017
South Korea’s top envoy suggested the suspension of North Korea as a member of the United Nations to a multilateral disarmament conference in Geneva in response to the assassination of Kim Jong-nam by a prohibited lethal nerve agent.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se, speaking at the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament on Tuesday, addressed the murder of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s estranged older half brother in Malaysia on Feb. 13.

“Now is the time,” said Yun on North Korea, “for us to seriously consider taking fundamental measures on their membership in regional and international fora including the United Nations as well as the Conference on Disarmament.”

He added this includes the “suspension of North Korea’s rights and privileges as a UN member.”

The foreign minister pointed to Malaysian authorities’ conclusion that Kim Jong-nam was killed with VX nerve agent, which he described as “a chemical weapon classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.”

He said the use of VX “endangers the safety at airports” and that “effective countermeasures should be taken against such offence in accordance with relevant international convention.”

Yun emphasized that an “era of greater accountability” for those who break regulations begins under a “principle of no impunity.”

He warned that the regime’s chemical weapons threat has been overlooked until now because of its nuclear and missile program and said, “The recent assassination is a wake-up call to all of us of North Korea’s chemical weapons capability and its intent to actually use them.”

Yun said, “Just a few grams of VX is sufficient for a mass killing,” warning North Korea has a stockpile of thousands of tons of chemical weapons, including VX.

North Korea’s use of a chemical weapon in a third country sent a clear message, said Yun, that “this impulsive, unpredictable, trigger-happy and brutal regime is ready and willing to strike anyone, anytime, anywhere.”

UN Security Council resolutions call for North Korea to abandon all chemical and biological weapons.

Yun also added that Pyongyang, through its latest action “is suspected of violating the sovereignty of another member of the Conference on Disarmament, Malaysia.”

Both Malaysia and North Korea are members of the UN Office at Geneva’s Conference on Disarmament, which was established in 1979. North Korea, however, is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which bans the use of VX.

Yun also called upon the UN Security Council and CWC to take this issue up as a “high priority agenda” after the Malaysian government announces the final investigation results. However, Ju Yong-choi, a North Korean diplomat at its mission in Geneva, told the Conference on Disarmament that Pyongyang “rejects” South Korean Foreign Minister Yun’s remarks.

He claimed that North Korea “has never produced or stockpiled or used chemical weapons” and went on to reject the Malaysian authorities’ conclusions on Kim’s assassination.

This marks the second consecutive year Yun has attended the UN Human Rights Council, held Monday, and the Conference on Disarmament.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]