Japan and North Korea spar over transgressions

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Japan and North Korea spar over transgressions

Envoys from Japan and North Korea engaged in a verbal spat over human rights on Monday at a United Nations meeting in Geneva, where Japan proposed an additional resolution to deal with Pyongyang’s crimes against humanity.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that kicked off Monday has been closely watched, as North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong, a veteran diplomat, was scheduled to make his first address to the council to defend North Korea’s dismal human rights record.

Takashi Uto, Japan’s parliamentary vice minister for foreign affairs, during a high-level UNHRC meeting on Monday, “welcomed that the conclusions of the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that was endorsed by the Security Council.”

He then urged North Korea to cooperate with the United Nations on human rights, according to UNHRC records.

To this, a North Korean delegate at the session in a right to reply said that Pyongyang “rejected Japan’s calls for the adoption of a new resolution” on North Korean human rights, which he said “would be based on false allegations.”

“Japan has no right to give lectures on human rights since it has itself failed to acknowledge its past crimes against humanity,” the North Korean diplomat added.

Tokyo should “instead present a resolution on its own past crimes,” he said, referring to Japan’s wartime aggressions and its colonization of Asian countries, including Korea.

In March 2014, the council adopted a resolution based on the recommendation of a landmark report published in February by the UN Commission of Inquiry on the human rights situation in Pyongyang, which recommended referring North Korea’s leaders responsible for human rights atrocities to the International Criminal Court.

The UN General Assembly passed a resolution supporting the COI’s findings and the UN Security Council’s addition in December of the North Korean human rights situation on its agenda.

In a rare trip, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri, a close confidante of the North Korean leader, was on Tuesday scheduled to deliver a keynote address to the council.

Ri was expected to defend North Korea’s human rights situation amid international scrutiny, as Pyongyang has upped its diplomatic maneuvers with the council anticipated to adopt another resolution supporting the 2014 resolution.

South Korean 2nd Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul was also scheduled to deliver a keynote address in Geneva.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Cho would raise the issue of the Japanese military’s coercion of young women into sexual slavery during World War II during his address and promote awareness about North Korea’s human rights situation.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in his speech at the council that “in North Korea, tens of thousands of people live as virtual slaves in 2015.”

To this, the North Korean envoy called on Washington to look at its own “domestic human rights record” and be accountable for the war crimes of the United States and its allies.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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