China rejected what it said was “unreasonable criticism” of Beijing in a new UN report on human rights abuses in North Korea, but it would not be drawn on whether it would veto any proceedings in the UN Security Council to bring Pyongyang to book.
North Korean security chiefs and possibly even North Korean leader Kim Jong-un should face international justice for ordering systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities, UN investigators said on Monday.
The unprecedented public rebuke and warning to a head of state by a UN inquiry is likely to further antagonize Kim and complicate efforts to persuade him to rein in his isolated country’s nuclear weapons program and belligerent confrontations with South Korea and the West.
The UN investigators also told China, North Korea’s main ally, that it might be “aiding and abetting crimes against humanity” by sending migrants and defectors back to North Korea to face torture or execution, a charge that prompted a sharp rebuke from Beijing.
“Of course, we cannot accept this unreasonable criticism,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) said at a briefing yesterday.
“We believe that politicizing human rights issues is not conducive toward improving a country’s human rights. We believe that taking human rights issues to the International Criminal Court is not helpful to improving a country’s human rights situation,” she added.
The investigators told Kim in a letter that they were advising the UN to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court to make sure any culprits, “including possibly yourself,” were held accountable.
In a statement in Geneva, North Korea “categorically and totally” rejected the accusations set out in the 372-page report, saying they were based on material faked by hostile forces backed by the US, the EU and Japan.
The findings came out of a year-long investigation involving public testimony by defectors, including former prison camp guards, at hearings in South Korea, Japan, Britain and the US.
The investigators said human rights abuses were mainly perpetrated by officials in structures that ultimately reported to Kim, including those in state security, the Ministry of People’s Security, the army, the judiciary and the Workers’ Party of Korea.
The team recommended targeted UN sanctions against civil officials and military commanders suspected of the worst crimes.