North Korea takes over the rotating presidency of a conference – on disarmament of all things. This has caused outrage in many member states. Pyongyang, on the other hand, is defending its arms programs against criticism.

Accompanied by protests from numerous countries, North Korea has taken over the rotating chairmanship of the Conference on Disarmament. Around 50 member states of the UN-based conference on Thursday expressed outrage at the prospect of unpredictable, nuclear-armed North Korea being set to chair the world’s most important multilateral disarmament forum for the next three weeks.

The US, the European Union, Great Britain, Australia and South Korea took the opportunity to criticize Pyongyang for its numerous missile tests and feared preparations for another nuclear test. “We remain deeply concerned about the DPRK’s reckless actions, which seriously undermine the value of the Conference on Disarmament,” said Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely on behalf of the group of countries.

North Korea ‘takes note’ of criticism

North Korea last tested nuclear weapons in 2017. Since the beginning of the year, the military has conducted a slew of missile tests, believed to include several ICBMs. In the statement, representing the group of states, Australian Gorely called on North Korea to “observe a moratorium on nuclear test explosions”.

In his capacity as president of the conference, North Korean ambassador Han Tae Song repeatedly stated that he had “taken note of” the critical comments. Speaking on behalf of his country, he insisted that North Korea had the right to defend itself against US “threats” since the country had officially been at war with the US since the Korean War ceasefire in 1953.

The disarmament conference is not a UN body, but meets at the UN headquarters in Geneva. The forum meets three times a year and advocates for arms control and disarmament agreements. An important focus is on ending the nuclear arms race.