Under rights pressure, North Korea sends envoy to Russia

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un plans to send a special envoy to Russia, state media said Friday, at a time when Pyongyang is seeking allies to fend off a UN resolution on its human rights record.

Choe Ryong-Hae, one of Kim's top aides, will travel to Russia "soon as a special envoy," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

It gave no details regarding the purpose of the trip or who Choe might be meeting in Moscow.

A UN General Assembly is expected to vote next week on a resolution - drafted by the EU and Japan - that blasts the North's rights record and suggests its leaders be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for possible crimes against humanity charges.

The resolution followed a comprehensive UN inquiry, based on testimony of North Korean exiles, that detailed a vast network of prison camps and documented cases of torture, rape, murder and enslavement.

North Korea has launched a diplomatic campaign to have key provisions of the resolution scrapped, and even offered to allow a visit by UN investigators if the recommendation for referral to the ICC was dropped.

The resolution refers to the findings of the UN inquiry, noting that there are "reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed... pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the state for decades." It asks the UN Security Council to "take appropriate action to ensure accountability," including a possible referral to the Hague-based ICC.

But the resolution is likely to be blocked by China, the North's main ally and diplomatic protector - and possibly Russia which also wields a UN veto.

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