February 17, 2015 / 12:27 AM / 3 years ago

North Korea says unworried by ICC threat because it's not guilty

NEW YORK (Reuters) - North Korea said on Monday it is not worried about a threat to refer the country to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, because it is not guilty and wants to attend a U.S. meeting on its rights situation to defend itself.

The United Nations General Assembly urged the U.N. Security Council in December to consider referring North Korea to the ICC after a U.N. inquiry detailed wide-ranging abuses in the hermit Asian state comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.

“We are not worried at all because at every move we can strongly respond to such a move and we are not guilty of any crime,” North Korea’s U.N. ambassador, Jang Il Hun, told a news conference at the country’s mission to the United Nations.

“We totally reject and categorically deny all those claims,” he said.

China, a strong ally of Pyongyang, is likely to veto any Security Council bid to refer North Korea to the ICC, diplomats say.

Jang also said he asked the United States to scrap a conference on human rights in North Korea to be held at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank on Tuesday.

“We also demanded that in case the conference is enforced as scheduled then we had to participate ... as a party directly concerned,” he said. “I sent a formal request to my counterpart in the State Department and he responded that it’s not a U.S. government event. So it means our request was denied.”

Asked about the North Korean request, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said it was a privately organized event, while adding:

“The wide range of participants from around the world reflects the international community’s ‎continued concern with the dire human rights situation in North Korea.”

Conference chair Victor Cha, the head of the CSIS Korea program, said the meeting was open to the public and the think tank generally does not issue specific invitations.

North Korean diplomats at the United Nations need State Department permission to travel outside of New York City, Cha said.

Scheduled speakers at the conference include Michael Kirby, head of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry into rights abuses in North Korea; Marzuki Darusman, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea; and Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues.

“This event is a futile attempt on the part of the United States and South Korea to give credibility to the Commission of Inquiry report amid increasing skepticism ... the report was based on fabricated forced testimonies,” Jang said.

A North Korean prison camp survivor last month recanted key elements of his account of torture and subsequent escape from a North Korean prison camp.

Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Eric Walsh

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