North’s top envoy demands UN back off on rights

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North’s top envoy demands UN back off on rights

UNITED NATIONS - North Korea’s foreign minister is demanding that the UN secretary-general tell member states that a resolution targeting the country’s bleak human rights record is illegal and based on lies.

The letter from Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, obtained by the Associated Press, says North Korea will be willing to “actively engage ourselves in talks and cooperation in the field of human rights” if the resolution is withdrawn.

North Korea was infuriated when the UN General Assembly late last year approved a resolution that said the country’s human rights situation should be referred to the International Criminal Court and that leader Kim Jong Un could himself be held accountable.

But ever since a prominent North Korean defector last month said he had changed important parts of his story, North Korea has said anything based on his testimony, including a groundbreaking UN commission of inquiry report last year that interviewed scores of defectors, cannot be trusted. North Korea has called the defectors “human scum.”

The foreign minister’s letter, dated Monday, refers to defector Shin Dong-hyuk’s changed story and says that it means the entire UN resolution “has collapsed.”

The letter says the European Union and Japan, the measure’s sponsors, “should be held accountable for making the countries that supported the ‘resolution’ fall for the lies” and should apologize.

Spokesmen for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the EU had no comment on the letter.

North Korea has been so worried about any targeting of its leader that for a while last year it dangled offers of increased human rights cooperation, including a possible visit by the UN human rights chief.

But once it was clear that the UN resolution was going to pass, North Korea immediately threatened a nuclear test instead.

The North Korean foreign minister’s letter also appears to be an attempt to find out the identities of the many defectors who spoke to the UN commission of inquiry under protection of anonymity.

If the list of those people is made available, it says, “we are ready to reveal to the whole world the true identities of each and every one of them and the crimes committed and the lies told by them one by one.”

North Korean diplomats last year tried to intimidate defectors who had helped the commission of inquiry, filming them at a UN event so openly that the head of the commission pointed it out.

The diplomats also circulated a DVD called “Lie and Truth: Who is Shin Dong-Hyuk?” in an attempt to discredit him by using footage of his own father speaking out against him and saying the family had never lived in a “so-called political prisoner camp.”

But Shin said the DVD merely proved that his father was still alive.


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