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It might not be the best time for bilateral ties between them but North Korea’s closes ally and biggest benefactor China has come to its aid at a juncture when the UN has called for investigations into what it calls Pyongyang’s gross violation of human rights.
Calling the UN report on human rights abuses in the closed Communist country as “unreasonable criticism”, China on Tuesday said the international body was politicising the issue of rights.
On Monday, top UN officials said that the North Korean leadership including leader Kim Jun Un and top military officers should be investigated for being responsible for starvation, systematic torture and large-scale killings.
Talking about China’s relationship with North Korea, the UN investigators said that it might be “aiding and abetting crimes against humanity” by sending migrants and defectors back to North Korea to face torture even execution.
“Of course we cannot accept this unreasonable criticism,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a briefing on Tuesday.
“We believe that politicising human rights issues is not conducive towards 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,” she added.
Relations between the two countries is said to have hit a rough diplomatic patch after the recent execution of Kim’s uncle Jang Song-thaek, a powerful official once and considered to be close to China; before the execution, Jang was purged from the party, stripped of all his powers and described as a traitor.
But despite the seeming unease in China about its secretive ally, Hua said it was “hypothetical question” when asked whether China would use its veto powers if the report was brought to the UN Security Council for further action.
The assumption is that China will likely block any such proceedings.
About North Koreans who illegally entered China being sent back, Hua said: “These people are not refugees. We term them illegal North Korean migrants,” she added.
China deals with these people appropriately "in accordance with international and domestic laws and the humanitarian principles", Hua said. She did not provide an estimate for how many North Koreans have crossed into China.