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S. Korea asks China to back U.N. move on N. Korea rights abuse

2014/03/17 15:16

BEIJING, March 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has asked China to support a United Nations resolution holding North Korea's leadership responsible for human rights violations, but Beijing has opposed referring the case to an international court, a Seoul diplomat said Monday.

The U.N. Human Rights Council is set to pass a resolution on North Korea's dismal human rights record this week in Geneva after a U.N. Commission of Inquiry concluded last month that "crimes against humanity" are committed by ranking officials in the socialist country.

The United States, the European Union and Japan are working to bring North Korea's human rights situation before the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to refer the issue to the International Criminal Court (ICC), but prospects remain elusive because China, key ally of the North, holds a veto.

"We have continued to discuss the issue with the Chinese side, but Chinese officials told us that it would not be an appropriate approach to try to openly address North Korea's human rights situation," the diplomat said on the condition of anonymity.

"The Chinese side maintains that North Korea's human rights situation should be handled through constructive dialogue and that it opposes such an explicit way" of referring North Korea's leaders to the ICC, the diplomat said.

China has publicly said that it would oppose any move at the U.N. to bring North Korea's leaders before the global criminal court.

"To bring the human right issues to the International Criminal Court does not help improve a country's human rights conditions," China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Feb. 17, when the U.N. commission published the report.

Wrapping up a year-long investigation, the U.N. commission reported widespread executions of people, enslavement and sexual violence by North Korea. It marked the clearest indictment against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, in his speech at the U.N. human rights session early this month, proposed strengthening the role of the U.N. commission on North Korea's human rights.

"For the international community, it is now time to begin the discussions on next steps to effectively follow up on the commission's recommendations to improve the human rights situation in North Korea," Yun said.

"In this vein, we strongly support the strengthening of the U.N. mechanisms to implement the commission's recommendations. We also look forward to the leading role of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea," Yun said.

kdh@yna.co.kr

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