China criticises UN call to send N. Korea to International Criminal Court

BEIJING (AFP) - China on Friday criticised a call by the United Nations for North Korea to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague over its human rights record.

"It is our long-standing position that countries should engage in constructive dialogue and negotiations to deal with differences on human rights, and we oppose politicising or using the issue of human rights to put pressure on other countries," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular briefing.

"The (UN) Security Council is not the right place to discuss human rights issues, and to refer human rights issues to the International Criminal Court will by no means solve the problems."

The General Assembly's non-binding measure approved Thursday by a vote of 116 to 20, with 53 abstentions, came amid growing international concern over human rights violations in the reclusive communist country.

It calls on the Security Council to refer North Korea to the ICC and to consider targeted sanctions against the Pyongyang leadership for the repression of its citizens.

On Monday, the Security Council will discuss North Korea in its first-ever meeting to touch on the rights situation in the country, but no decision is expected on ICC referral during those talks.

Ten of the 15 council members pushed for North Korea to be put on the agenda, overcoming strong objections from Russia and China which argued that the matter should be put before the UN Human Rights Council and not the Security Council.

It remains uncertain, however, whether the Security Council will seek to refer North Korea to the ICC, with China - Pyongyang's main ally - and Russia widely expected to oppose such a move. China and Russia voted against the measure Thursday, as did Belarus Cuba, Iran, Syria and Venezuela.

A UN report released in February concluded that North Korea was committing human rights abuses "without parallel in the contemporary world."

The year-long probe heard testimony from North Korean exiles and documented a vast network of harsh prison camps holding up to 120,000 people as well as cases of torture, summary executions and rape.

Addressing the General Assembly, North Korea's deputy ambassador An Myong Hun slammed the resolution as "the product of a political plot and confrontation," based on a "fabricated" report by the commission of inquiry.