North Korea's ambassador met with the UN rights investigator on Monday for dialogue on a possible invitation amid a UN push for the Pyongyang regime to face war crimes prosecution.
North Korean counsellor Kim Song told AFP that the meeting with special rapporteur Marzuki Darusman was to discuss "our future cooperation in the area of human rights."
The meeting came ahead of a report to be presented Wednesday by Darusman to the UN General Assembly that calls for North Korea to face war crimes, based on the findings of a UN commission of inquiry released this year.
A UN official said the North Koreans floated the idea of inviting Darusman to North Korea but they also suggested that referring Pyongyang to the International Criminal Court should be dropped.
"I don't think that under those conditions, a visit would be possible," said the UN official who asked not to be named.
In his report, Darusman recommends that the 193-nation Assembly ask the Security Council to refer North Korea to the ICC and to consider targeted sanctions against those responsible for crimes against humanity.
The European Union and Japan have put forward a draft resolution to the Assembly that asks the Security Council to "take appropriate action," including a possible referral of North Korea to the Hague-based court.
That referral would trigger a war crimes investigation with an opportunity to prosecute those responsible for the atrocities, which the report says were ordered by the highest level of the state.
A vote is expected in the Assembly in late November.
Released in February, the UN inquiry laid bare the brutality of the Pyongyang regime, detailing a vast network of prison camps and documenting cases of torture, enslavement and rape among other violations.
The report sparked such an international outcry that North Korea is engaging on issues of human rights for the first time in decades.