UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korea on Wednesday circulated a draft U.N. resolution praising its own human rights record in a rare effort to counter the international community's growing condemnation of the way it treats its people.
In a closed meeting, dozens of diplomats sat in perplexed silence after the North handed out copies, said it has "nothing to hide" and invited questions and comments.
China, Pyongyang's top ally, finally spoke up and said it strongly opposes resolutions that interfere in a country's internal affairs and hurt mutual trust. The European Union and Japan have teamed up on a separate resolution that sharply criticizes North Korea's human rights record.
The EU then told the North Koreans that Pyongyang's recent contacts with EU officials have been welcome, but that doesn't mean its resolution criticizing the North will be withdrawn.
No diplomat commented on the draft resolution in the meeting, which broke up after just 20 minutes. The North Koreans said comments are welcome until the end of the month.
"Don't hesitate to contact me," one said.
The draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, calls for "an end to the practice of calling into question the human rights situation of specific individual countries." It also calls on the United Nations to make an "unbiased reassessment of the human rights situation of the DPRK," using North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The draft urges states to "deal fairly" with human rights issues through dialogue while keeping in mind countries' "political, historical, social, religious and cultural characteristics."
North Korea has taken the unusual approach of promoting its rights record in the months since a U.N. commission of inquiry report was harshly critical of the impoverished, reclusive regime. The 372-page report accused the North of running political prison camps with up to 120,000 people and sponsoring abductions of South Koreans, Japanese and others.
In response, the North released its own self-assessment last month by the DPRK Association for Human Rights Studies, and it sent a letter to diplomats last week praising the country's free education and medical systems.
The EU and Japan are now encouraging the Security Council to follow the commission of inquiry's recommendations and refer North Korea's situation to the International Criminal Court. Their draft resolution also presses for targeted sanctions. It doesn't name names, but the commission of inquiry warned leader Kim Jong Un in a letter saying he may be held accountable for orchestrating widespread crimes against civilians.
In its letter last week, North Korea said the EU-Japan resolution for the General Assembly's human rights committee "immediately means confrontation."
On Wednesday, the North Koreans briefly made their case, arguing that Pyongyang has been reaching out to the international community and that it participates in U.N. human rights work. They said North Korea, Myanmar and Iran are all examples of countries that are frequent targets of resolutions like the EU-Japan one.
The EU told the meeting it had received no recent examples of North Korea engaging with the U.N. side on human rights.
The EU-Japan draft resolution is non-binding and also needs approval by the 193-member General Assembly. Even if the more powerful Security Council takes up the recommendation to refer North Korea's situation to the ICC, the effort is expected to fail because China would likely use its veto power as a permanent council member.