North Korea has been appointed head of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament -- a 65-member arms control forum -- despite the U.N. Security Council imposing sanctions against the communist regime over its nuclear weapons program.
North Korean ambassador So Se Pyong took over the presidency of the U.N. body Tuesday.
"I am convinced that the conference is able to achieve concrete results. I am very engaged in moving the conference forward," he told AFP.
A United Nations summary showed that "all of the delegations that took the floor" welcomed Pyong's presidency, and that "they looked forward to his stewardship" to revitalizing and strengthening the conference. The summary lists that Canada, the U.K., Iran, China and India took the floor and backed the choice.
A Geneva-based human rights group is calling on the United States and the European Union to strongly protest the appointment.
"Bare months after the U.N. finally suspended Libya's Col. Muammar Qaddafi from its Human Rights Council, North Korea wins the propaganda coup of heading the world's disarmament agency. It's asking the fox to guard the chickens, and damages the U.N.'s credibility," Hillel Neuer, executive director of U.N. Watch, said in a statement.
The Conference of Disarmament -- which is billed as "the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community" -- appoints its presidents on a rotating basis. Neuer says this is still unacceptable to having a North Korean official appointed to such a high-profile position.
"While the U.N. will likely defend North Korea's appointment as simply an automatic rotation, no system should tolerate such a fundamental conflict of interests. It's common sense that a disarmament body should not be headed by the world's arch-villain on illegal weapons and nuclear proliferation, notorious for exporting missiles and nuclear know-how to fellow rogue regimes around the globe."
This month, the U.S. Navy intercepted a ship from North Korea that was suspected of illegally carrying missile parts to Burma.