Japan, EU call for UN probe of N.Korea rights abuses

Japan and the EU want the United Nations to launch an in-depth probe into widespread rights abuses in North Korea, Japan's vice foreign minister said Tuesday.

"Although the international community has repeatedly expressed its concerns, it is deeply regrettable that the dire human rights situation in the DPRK (North Korea) remains unchanged," Toshiko Abe said in an address to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

"Against this backdrop, Japan and the EU will jointly submit ... a resolution including the establishment of a 'new inquiry mechanism' on the human rights situation in the DPRK," he said.

The resolution to create a commission of inquiry on North Korea comes after UN human rights chief Navi Pillay last month decried the "deplorable" situation in the country.

Pillay stressed that "an in-depth inquiry into one of the worst, but least understood and reported human rights situations in the world is not only fully justified, but long overdue."

She described meetings in December with two survivors of North Korea's network of political prison camps -- believed to hold at least 200,000 people -- listing rampant violations that "may amount to crimes against humanity".

Abe said the regime in Pyongyang had also failed to address "with sincerity" its abductions of Japanese citizens.

In 2002 North Korea admitted to kidnapping 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to teach its spies about the Japanese language and culture.

Five victims were allowed to return to Japan and Pyongyang said the remaining eight had died. The Japanese government maintains Pyongyang has not told the whole truth and insists it has proof that at least four other Japanese nationals were abducted.

And "there are more cases of missing persons for which the possibility of abductions cannot be dismissed," Abe said.

Abe urged the entire council to get behind the new resolution, stressing that "broad support on this resolution by the international community would send a stronger message to the DPRK."

Several countries, including the United States, said during their addresses to the council that they would support the measure.

Consensus on a resolution could be possible since Russia, China and Cuba -- which have often in the past demanded votes on such resolutions -- are not among the rotating list of 47 member states this year.

That leaves only Venezuela as the only likely obstacle to full consensus, observers say.