On Tuesday, the United Nations again made itself an international laughing stock – except perhaps to the American taxpayers who continue to foot 22 percent of the bill – by appointing North Korea chair of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament. That would be the same North Korea that, according to an article this week by Senator John Kerry, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has “twice tested nuclear weapons…is developing missiles to carry them…has built facilities capable of producing highly enriched uranium for more nuclear weapons” and has defied a U.N. arms embargo by exporting weapons and sensitive technologies to rogue regimes.
Alas, Senator Kerry is also one of the lead champion of the United Nations in the Senate. According to the U.N., "The Conference is funded from the UN regular budget, reports to the General Assembly and receives guidance from it."
North Korea assumes the Conference chairmanship by being the next state in the alphabetical rotation of the 65 members, which include five nuclear weapons states and 60 other countries such as Iran and Syria. North Korea will preside over the Conference for a four working-week period.
North Korea’s representative, So Se Pyong, was enthusiastic about his new job. He announced that he was “very much committed to the Conference” and that during his presidency he “welcomes any sort of constructive proposals that strengthened the work and credibility of the Conference on Disarmament.” He also said that “he would do everything in his capacity to move the Conference on Disarmament forward.”
That might make sense, if by “forward” he means toward a nuclear winter, or by “constructive,” he means steering clear of anything that might impede North Korea. The official mandate of the Conference looks a bit different and includes “all multilateral arms control and disarmament problems” with the following “main areas of interest”: “cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament; prevention of nuclear war, including all related matters.”
North Korea’s chairmanship was heralded by other U.N. aficionados, including the Iranian delegate to the Conference. Iran’s Mohammad Hassan Daryaei told the Conference meeting: “I would like to congratulate the distinguished ambassador of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the assumption of the presidency and assuring him of my delegation’s full support and cooperation.”
Iran’s support is telling. Just yesterday Iran's Revolutionary Guards tested 14 long-range missiles that could carry a nuclear weapon, with the express purpose of hitting U.S. interests and Israel, according to the head of their aerospace division.
Congratulations also poured in from such upstanding world citizens and U.N. fans as China. China’s Wang Qun “welcomed the presidency of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.”
It was left to the Canadian delegate to speak plainly. Canada’s Marius Grinius said: “[I]n the last 13 years the Conference has failed to move forward on its core disarmament responsibilities, including the negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty…[T]he Conference on Disarmament is on life support because it no longer is the sole multilateral negotiating forum for disarmament. Indeed, it is not negotiating anything and has not been for a very long time.”
Why not just put it out of its misery and pull the plug?
Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a professor at Touro College, and the editor of EYEontheUN.org.