International criticism of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has continued to increase regarding the government's continued pursuit of nuclear-powered weapons. At a high-level United Nations Security Council (UNSC) briefing on 28 April convened solely to discuss the implications of a nuclear-capable DPRK, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted that the DPRK has openly flouted UNSC resolutions banning the development of nuclear weapons as it has conducted two nuclear tests and over two dozen launches using ballistic missile technology since the beginning of 2016.
Guterres' main concerns were that military escalation in northeastern Asia could result in "increased arms competition and tensions" in the region, which would more fully prevent the international community from stepping in to mediate the situation and promote peace. And because the region is "home to one fifth of the world's people and gross domestic product, [armed conflict] would have global implications," he added. Thus, Guterres stressed that both the international community and the DPRK have to fulfill their international obligations to de-escalate tensions.
Many other representatives at the Security Council briefing were quick to push further on the human rights situation in the DPRK, which they saw as inextricably connected to the country's pursuit of nuclear capability. Representatives from several states, including the UK, France, Japan, Sweden, and Italy, named both direct and indirect ways the effort has hurt citizens. The United States, this month's President of the UNSC, has been especially critical in its remarks: indirectly, the country spends billions on nuclear testing that could instead be used to aid and feed its ailing civilians, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stated on 28 April based on facts iterated in a UNSC resolution this past November. And last month, United States Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley warned that human rights abuses are directly aiding the country's nuclear program because the government forces many citizens to work in "life-threatening conditions in coal mines and other dangerous industries to finance the regime’s military.”
Although the UN Security Council has taken efforts to shed light on the risks involved with the country's nuclear tests, some experts worry that not enough action has been taken to stop the resulting abuses. Human Rights Watch specifically criticized the Council on 1 May for failing to discuss the importance of holding individual members of the DPRK government responsible for the egregious human rights situation, which has "no parallel in terms of [its] gravity, scale, and nature."
For its part, the DPRK has resolved to continue its goal of nuclear capability and even conducted another ballistic missile test on 29 April, the day after the UNSC briefing regarding its nuclear program. DPRK leader Kim Jong Un has previously described the country as a “responsible nuclear-weapon State," the truth of which remains to unfold as the country continues its testing.