The report released by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea constitutes a clarion call to action. According to many analysts, it will also amount to little, unless China, one of North Korea’s few allies, gives its consent.
“So what is likely to happen? Nothing,” write the editors of New York Post. They argue that while the report exposes a slew of North Korean atrocities, it may be more eye-opening to see the extent of the UN’s failure to do anything about it.
The international community must hold China accountable for the role it played in facilitating North Korea’s abuses, writes Kenneth Roth of Foreign Policy: “No country has more influence over North Korea than China, which has long provided a lifeline of economic aid and political cover to the Kim dynasty of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and, since Dec. 2011, Kim Jong Un, while refusing to do anything about the horrendous cruelty being committed next door. If it wanted to, Beijing could use its considerable influence to press Pyongyang to curb its atrocities.”
If response from China is any indication, Beijing seems uninterested in pursuing the avenue opened up by the UN report. “China maintains that differences in human rights should be handled through constructive dialogue and cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual respect,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday, according to Beijing-based Global Times. “To bring human rights issues to the International Criminal Court does not help improve a country’s human rights conditions.”
Human rights lawyer Jared Genser thinks there are ways to pressure China to allow the Human Rights Council to act. “That said, the way forward will be exceptionally difficult,” he writes in The Diplomat. “Changing the conduct of the North Korea regime, let alone holding its members to account for the commission of crimes against humanity, will require a Herculean effort.”
Bloomberg View’s editors suggest that China may be ready to back away from Kim Jong-un. “China’s interests lie in a transition to minimally acceptable standards of behavior in Pyongyang, not in supporting the insupportable pending the outright collapse of Kim’s regime,” they write.
Even if the Chinese Security Council roadblock is overcome, however, that doesn’t mean that Kim Jong-un will ever face judgment. The editors of the Ottawa Citizen write that the Security Council has a bad record of actually catching those they refer to the ICC.