North Korea this year tested a series of ballistic missiles, also banned by UNSC resolutions, and appears to be preparing to conduct a new nuclear test for the first time since 2017.

It got the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament because it rotates alphabetically among its 65 members.

“The DPRK remains committed to contributing to world peace and disarmament and attaches importance to the work of the conference,” Ambassador Han Tae Song told the Geneva meeting, saying it was an “honor and privilege” to serve.

The nuclear-armed state fired several missiles last week, including one believed to be its largest intercontinental ballistic missile.

Western envoys took turns condemning Pyongyang’s actions on Thursday, with Australia describing them as “destabilizing.”

However, they did not heed a call to withdraw from the meeting as requested by dozens of NGOs, witnesses said. Instead, some diplomatic missions sent lower-level representatives than the ambassadors normally expected to attend.

Observers considered the overall reaction from the plenary to be mild compared to the reaction to Syria’s presidency of the same body in 2018. During that meeting, Canada read testimonies from survivors of the Syrian chemical attack in protest.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, which monitors the world body’s performance, said a North Korean presidency would “severely undermine the image and credibility of the United Nations.”

Expectations for this series of meetings under the Pyongyang presidency were low in any case. The Conference on Disarmament, the world’s only multilateral forum for disarmament, has not reached an agreement since the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in 1996.

“This can only highlight the irrelevance of DC in the current context,” said Marc Finaud, an expert at the Center for Security Policy in Geneva, on North Korea’s role.

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