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Security, human rights and international law took centre stage at the General Assembly today, with States diverging over how best to preserve their stability in the face of existential threats, as the 193-member body entered the fifth day of its annual high-level debate.
Despite broad agreement that terrorism and organized crime menaced the safety of civilians around the globe, opinions were split over how to combat such threats. Some speakers underlined the primacy of human rights and others spotlighted security and the rule of law as the most pressing concerns. Meanwhile, nearly all delegations stood united in condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests as flagrant violations of international law, an allegation that the country’s Foreign Minister denied.
Ri Yong Ho, Foreign Minister of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, underlined his country’s right to self-defence under the United Nations Charter, saying article 10 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons stated that the supreme interests of States stood above nuclear non-proliferation. He described claims that Pyongyang’s possession of a hydrogen bomb and intercontinental ballistic missiles constituted a global threat as lies akin to those told by the United States in 2003 about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Pointing out that the United States had been the first country to produce and use nuclear weapons, he said that country had also been the first to introduce them to the Korean Peninsula after the Korean War. It was for those reasons that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was compelled to possess nuclear weapons, he explained. “The possession of nuclear deterrence by the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] is a righteous self-defensive measure” intended to establish a balance of power with the United States, he continued. That country and its followers would now have to “think twice” before launching a military provocation.
Walid al-Moualem, Syria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, expressed optimism about the de-escalation zones resulting from the Astana process, saying that pledges to join it by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) and Al-Nusrah would be the true test of their commitment and that of their Turkish sponsors. He also reaffirmed Syria’s commitment to the Geneva process, while pointing out that it had yet to bear fruit in the absence of a national opposition that could be a partner in Syria’s future. Influential countries, including permanent Security Council members, had blocked any meaningful progress in Geneva, he added.
He said those behind the war had falsely accused the Government of Syria of using chemical weapons, yet the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had confirmed the elimination of its chemical weapons programme. Such claims were a pretext for continued aggression against Syria, he said, noting that the “so-called” international coalition led by the United States and allegedly created to fight ISIL, had in fact killed many more Syrian women and children while destroying vital infrastructure. It had also used phosphorous bombs and other internationally prohibited weapons, he added.
Sushma Swaraj, India’s External Affairs Minister, referred to the dispute between her country and Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir, saying the latter had forgotten that under the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration, they had agreed to settle