A key U.N. committee overwhelmingly approved a resolution Monday aimed at maintaining pressure on North Korea over its widespread human rights violations.
The General Assembly's human rights committee adopted the nonbinding resolution by a vote of 112-16 with 55 abstentions. It must now be approved at a plenary session of the 193-member world body, where its adoption is virtually certain.
The resolution expresses regret at North Korea's failure to implement U.N. recommendations after the country allowed the U.N. Human Rights Council to review its rights record in March 2010.
The resolution expresses serious concern at North Korea's use of public executions, arbitrary detentions and the death penalty for political and religious reasons. It also cites the country's severe restrictions on freedom of expression, religion and peaceful assembly, freedom to travel inside and outside the country, and the right to privacy.
The resolution "strongly urges" the government in Pyongyang "to immediately put an end to the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights" and implement all recommendations of the Human Rights Council and other U.N. bodies. It also urges the government to allow the U.N. Human Rights Commission's independent rights investigator to visit the country.
North Korean diplomat Kim Song rejected the resolution, saying it "has nothing to do with human rights and everything to do with politics."
Japan's U.N. Ambassador Tsuneo Nishida, whose country sponsored the resolution, called on North Korea to respond to the international community's concerns "in good faith."
Japan believes the resolution "will contribute to realizing a solution to the situation of human rights" in North Korea in general and to the North's abduction of 17 Japanese citizens, he said.
But North Korea's Kim said "dialogue and confrontation are not compatible."
The resolution also accused North Korea of violating the economic, social and cultural rights of its people, "which have led to severe malnutrition, widespread health problems and other hardship for the population," especially women, children and the elderly.
It expressed "very serious concern at the precarious humanitarian situation, including a serious deterioration in the availability of, and access to food in the country." It said this was the result of frequent natural disasters, weaknesses in agricultural production, government restrictions on cultivating and trading food items, and "the prevalence of chronic and acute malnutrition."
Despite some progress, the resolution said the lack of food "continues to affect the physical and mental development of a significant proportion of children" and it urged the government to address the shortages and cooperate with international donor agencies.