North Korean leader Kim Jong-un should be held accountable for North Korea's gross human rights violations as the leader of the country, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations has said after an informal session on the matter in the Security Council.
"Kim Jong-un is the leader of North Korea. So as the leader, the buck stops at the top," Linda Thomas-Greenfield stressed during an exclusive interview with Yonhap News Agency on Friday (local time) at the U.N. headquarters after co-hosting the panel's Arria-formula meeting on the human rights situation in the reclusive nation.
She said that the U.S. was "very pleased" to hear a report from Elizabeth Salmon, the U.N. special rapporteur for North Korea's human rights, on the situation "on the ground."
"We think that there are conditions and reports that she has provided that would justify holding people accountable, and we look forward to working in that direction," the envoy said.
At the meeting, Salmon urged the international community to step up efforts to address the problem through the International Criminal Court (ICC) or other means.
On specific measures to prosecute the human rights violators, Thomas-Greenfield said: "There are tools and mechanisms within the international system for doing that," apparently referring to the ICC.
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"I won't preview what might or could be done in terms of the different tools that we have available, but they are available for our use," she added.
The ambassador voiced hope for more proactive discussions on the North Korean human rights issue, especially in the case that South Korea becomes a non-permanent member of the council.
"It is our hope that we will continue to engage actively and proactively on issues related to the DPRK," she said. "But I think the presence of South Korea, should they get a non-elected position, will help us make that case."
DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Asked about Seoul's planned bid for non-permanent membership of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC), the ambassador was guarded, only saying that: "If South Korea gets elected, we can expect that the DPRK will be constantly on our agenda."
Scepticism has grown recently about the UNSC's role in checking the North's brinkmanship.
It held 10 rounds of meetings last year for discussions in response to the Kim regime's ballistic missile launches. But it failed to produce a formal document amid opposition from China and Russia, two of the veto power-wielding permanent members of the council.
Earlier this week, the North's foreign ministry slammed the UNSC meeting as a scheme to "bring down" the country's regime and warned that it will take the "toughest counteraction" against the "most vicious hostile plots of the U.S."