National

North Korea blasts Japan's role in pushing U.N. human rights resolution amid nuclear talks

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

North Korea has singled out Japan, criticizing Tokyo’s leading role in crafting a U.N. resolution condemning human rights violations and the abductions of foreign nationals by the nuclear-armed country, amid its ongoing thaw with the outside world.

In a commentary published late Monday, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency blasted “dishonest forces including Japan” for “working hard to cook up” the resolution as denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington continue.

“No one in the international community has ever given those countries a privilege to set the world ‘human rights standard,’ ” it said.

“It is a mockery and insult to justice and human rights that Japan, which committed the unethical crimes against the Korean nation and other Asian countries but has made no apology for them, is taking the lead in the ‘human rights’ campaign,” the commentary went on, apparently referring to Japanese aggression before and during World War II.

The United Nations is expected to adopt the resolution next month for the 14th straight year, media reports quoting diplomatic sources have said.

Tokyo has repeatedly apologized for its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, including to the North in the 2002 Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration. DPRK is the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official name.

Pyongyang regularly demands Tokyo apologize directly to it, a move some observers say is likely linked to wartime reparations it is believed to be seeking.

The commentary took particular umbrage at the possible timing of the U.N. resolution condemning rights abuses by the North.

“What merits attention is that the outdated ‘human rights racket’ continues even at a time when the situation in and around the Korean Peninsula turned to dialogue and peace thanks to the positive efforts of the DPRK,” it said.

“This is a deliberate politically-motivated provocation to escalate the sanctions and pressure on the DPRK and block the favorably-developing trend of dialogue and peace under the pretext of the ‘human rights issue,’ ” it added.

Pyongyang said it “attaches importance to international cooperation for the protection and promotion of genuine human rights,” but said it would not be “a passive onlooker” to “sinister” attempts to throw cold water on the recent detente.

The Washington-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, a leading U.S. nongovernmental organization with consultative status at the United Nations, on Monday issued a statement calling upon the U.N. General Assembly to again adopt a strong rights resolution.

“North Korea’s pursuit of a peace agenda … has not been matched by steps to improve its human rights record,” it said. “This finding was confirmed by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the DPRK, Tomas Ojea Quintana, whose September 19, 2018 report to the General Assembly found ‘no substantial changes in the serious human rights situation.’ ”

Rights group Amnesty International said in a report this year that the North is believed to hold up to 120,000 people in its four known political prison camps, where they are subjected to forced labor as well as torture and other ill-treatment. Some of the violations have amounted to crimes against humanity, it said.

Tokyo has also slammed Pyongyang for the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korean agents in the 1970s and ’80s. The abduction issue has long been a thorn in the side of Japan-North Korea relations and remains a key obstacle to any meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un.