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Canada boycotting UN body over North Korea
Canada is boycotting a UN body dedicated to disarmament to protest against North Korea being named its chair, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced Monday.
The Conference on Disarmament, where UN members negotiate disarmament and other arms control agreements, is heavily focused on the prevention of a nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament.
Baird said it is "absurd" that North Korea is chairing the group. He said Canada is taking a clear stand.
"I think there's a lot of symbolism here," Baird said during a call with media to make the announcement. "It's just unacceptable and it's frankly wrong."
Canada will not have a representative at the committee until after North Korea is done presiding over it August 19th, said Baird. He said Canada will also seek to change the process of a rotating presidency.
Countries rotate presidency of the conference, and when North Korea was named chair last month, Baird issued a statement saying he was disappointed.
"North Korea is simply not a credible chair of a disarmament body. The fact that it gets a turn chairing a United Nations committee focused on disarmament is unacceptable, given the North Korean regime's efforts in the exact opposite direction," he said.
Canada called on North Korea to pass up the opportunity so a "credible country" could advance the disarmament agenda at the UN. Baird warned that Canada would review its participation in the Geneva-based committee.
North Korea has defied multiple UN resolutions on arms control and continued its nuclear weapons program. In 2009, it conducted a nuclear test and in 2010 an international investigation determined that North Korea sunk a South Korean naval ship with a torpedo. The events prompted Canada to further limit trade, investment and other relations with North Korea.
North Korea assumed presidency of the UN body at a meeting on June 28, and the new president of the group, So Se Pyong, told members that he was committed to its work. He said he would work closely with members to strengthen the Conference's ability to deliver results.
Canada's representative at the committee, Marius Grinius, was already ending his time there before Monday's decision was announced. In his farewell remarks at the June 28th meeting, he indicated that Canada is skeptical about the effectiveness of the disarmament body.
According to a summary of the meeting on the UN's website, Grinius spoke about how the committee is on "life support" because it's not the only arena for the negotiation of multilateral disarmament agreements, and that it hadn't been working on new agreements for some time. It has achieved glories in the past, he said, but it's not clear that it will overcome what he described as paralysis at the committee.