U.S. Downplays North Korea Chairmanship of U.N. Disarmament Panel, Calls Position 'Inconsequential'

Published July 11, 2011

| FoxNews.com

The U.S. won’t follow Canada’s lead in boycotting a United Nations arms control conference chaired by North Korea, even though the State Department concedes the rogue regime has flouted its own disarmament obligations to the Security Council and the international community.

"We have chosen not to make a big deal out of this because it's a relatively low-level, inconsequential event," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

Earlier in the day, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called North Korea's chairmanship at the Geneva-based U.N. Conference on Disarmament "absurd" and a "huge blow to the credibility of the United Nations."

"It's important that Canada take a stand," Baird said during a press conference. "North Korea is simply not a credible chair of a major non proliferation conference. It undermines the integrity of both the disarmament framework and the United Nations."

"We are no longer going to go along to get along," he added. Canada will not rejoin the discussion until North Korea leaves the seat on Aug. 19. It assumed leadership on June 28.

Nuland said that even though the North Koreans "are not in compliance with their own obligations to the U.N. Security Council," the chairmanship rotates among 60 countries, and the U.S. does "not see any particular damage that they can create in the chair."

"It's a consensus-based organization, so nothing can be decided just because the chair is a country that we have issues with. So our plan is not to take any particular action with regard to that meeting," Nuland said. "It is not where the main game on these issues are."

She added that the United States continues to operate within multilateral coalitions to dissuade nations from acquiring nuclear weapons.

But the State Department's view of the U.N. post as "inconsequential" isn't shared by some in Congress. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., called the honor "a stunning, but not unique, illustration of how backwards the U.N. has become."

"This is a classic example of the fox guarding the henhouse," Ros-Lehtinen said. "The U.N. has lost yet more credibility by giving leadership positions to rogues like Iran and North Korea."

The Canadian decision to stay away, which Baird termed "symbolic," is the most forthright protest yet at the notion that North Korea could hold down even a ceremonial job as head of the Conference, a 65-member organization that, among other things, was the source of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Other major powers that are conference members have not indicated whether they will follow suit.

Announcing Canada's "suspension" from the discussion, Baird said Canada will begin lobbying to make changes in the rules governing the conference that impose a rotating presidency before yet another member with notorious nuclear ambitions -- Iran -- gets a chance at the chair.

This is the second time recently that the conservative Canadian government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has walked away from U.N. meetings over what it considers issues of principle.

Last November, Canada announced that it would boycott an upcoming September 22 U.N. summit meeting in New York city to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Durban anti-racist conference that the Canadian foreign minister later called "flawed with anti-Semitic and hateful rhetoric."

In the case of the Durban anniversary meeting, the Obama administration finally announced early in June of this year that it would also boycott the meeting, even though the U.S. is the official host country for the occasion.

Fox News Executive Editor George Russell contributed to this report.

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http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/07/11/us-downplays-north-korea-chairmanship-un-disarmament-panel-calls-position/