North Korean human rights abuses were documented in vivid detail by a scathing report put forward by the United Nations, and reported on by the Inquisitr on February 17, 2014. The report documented a multitude of violations against North Korea including “widespread rape, torture, forced abortions and other atrocities in its network of forced labor camps.” The UN Report concluded that North Korean officials, including its leader, Kim Jong-un, be prosecuted before an international criminal court.
Today, however, North Korea’s strongest and most influential ally, China, took exception with the 400 page UN Report. Hua Chunying, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, called the report “unreasonable criticism” of North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un. She stated in greater detail:
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.
Based on this statement it is reasonable to conclude that China may use its United Nations Security Council veto power to block any attempted criminal prosecutions of Kim Jong-un.
North Korea has vigorously denied the findings, which were presented in great detail in the report. A North Korean spokesperson has summarized the country’s position on the report as a “concoction of lies and deceits by North Korea’s enemies, including South Korea and the United States.” Additionally, Reuters reported that an official at the North Korean Mission in Geneva stated that rights violations “do not exist in our country,” and that the findings were “an instrument of a political plot aimed at sabotaging the socialist system.”
When questioned directly about whether China would use its veto power to block any North Korean criminal prosecutions, Hua refused to respond. China has been North Korea’s strongest political ally for decades. It has a vested interest in keeping North Korea stable politically, as a unified Korea would likely favor the United States, due to the friendly relations between the US and South Korea.
China appears to be willing to support initiatives aimed at reducing the nuclear capacity of North Korea. US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said that the top Chinese leaders “could not have more forcefully reiterated [their] commitment to that goal.” However, China has traditionally been reluctant to pressure North Korea regarding human rights violations. This may be because China has had many of the same allegations levied at it over the years.
Scott Snyder, a North Korea expert at the Council on Foreign Relations stated about China:
The UN report is a very strong indictment of North Korea, but China is clearly right there in the mix, and that’s the reason why they were reluctant to co-operate. And so the main purpose of the report, beyond making the case for a continued international response to North Korea through the international criminal court, is to move China.
Unfortunately, China’s media coverage of the UN Report points toward their unwillingness to take action against North Korea. The UN Report was covered only by state run media outlets, as opposed to allowing outside reporting. Also, the media coverage covered the conclusions of the report, but failed to include the specific details of the report, including detailed accounts of starvation and torture of North Korean citizens.
Due to China’s likely opposition to criminal prosecutions, it does not appear that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, will stand trial for the alleged violations. However, it appears to be a step in the right direction, as it increases the knowledge of what is happening in North Korea, long one of the most veiled countries in the world.