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North Korea

Volume 697: debated on Tuesday 15 June 2021

What recent assessment the Government have made of the political and humanitarian situation in North Korea. (901225)

The threat posed by North Korea continues to grow. Its nuclear and ballistic missiles programmes threaten to destabilise the region and pose a grave threat to international peace and security. The United Kingdom is deeply concerned that humanitarian needs in North Korea may be growing following the closure of its borders in January 2020. We urge North Korea to facilitate access for international humanitarian organisations to carry out an independent assessment of needs and to allow aid to flow freely into that country.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the international community’s complete failure to stop the ongoing brutal treatment and subjugation of the North Korean people is testament to the fact that we need new international structures to tackle the worst human rights abuses outside of the UN Security Council, which is not able to deliver on this and many other issues?

My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue, but he can be reassured that the UK is clear that there must be no impunity for the most serious international crimes. The international community has a responsibility to respond to human rights violations in North Korea. The United Kingdom remains committed to continuing to push for action at all levels to bring pressure to bear on the Government of North Korea.

I listened with great interest to the Minister’s answer, and North Korea really should be higher up our agenda, because there is a looming humanitarian disaster coming in that country. The corn harvest is failing and food prices are now up 30-odd per cent., the border remains closed with China, so imports are not able to alleviate that, and we are also seeing electricity being diverted away from the provinces to Pyongyang—all the actions of a deeply unstable regime, but jeopardising the interests of 25 million people. We have heard great tell about the Indo-Pacific tilt and integrated foreign policy and development, but it really would be a lot more credible if we heard less about aircraft carriers and more about preparations for a pending humanitarian disaster.

The hon. Member is again right to raise this issue. We are extremely concerned about the humanitarian situation in North Korea. He will be aware that our ambassador to North Korea maintains diplomatic relations from London. He routinely discusses issues of concern. We will seek to re-establish our presence in Pyongyang as soon as the border reopens. The Foreign Secretary and other G7 Foreign and Development Ministers made clear on 5 May our deep concern for the welfare of vulnerable communities, particularly in terms of access to adequate water, nutrition and medical facilities. This humanitarian assistance should be delivered consistent with UN Security Council resolutions and humanitarian principles.