US-NK human rights probe

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, March 22 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. government said Friday that the creation of an independent U.N. body to look into North Korea's human rights abuses reflects the international community's interest in the problem.

"The United States commends the U.N. Human Rights Council for establishing an independent commission of inquiry (COI) to investigate North Korea's grave, widespread, systemic human rights violations," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press briefing.

A day earlier, the 47-member council voted to launch the commission under a resolution that condemns human rights violations reportedly prevalent in the communist nation, in particular in political prison camps. The resolution is co-sponsored by South Korea, Japan and the European Union.

The COI began work Friday on a one-year mission.

"We're pleased that this resolution passed by consensus, sending a message that the international community is paying very close attention to the deplorable human rights situation in North Korea," Nuland said.

The commission's mandate is a demonstration of the world's continued deep concern about the human rights situation in the North as well as support for justice for the North Korean people, she added.

The three-member COI plans to report the results of its probe to the U.N. General Assembly later this year and to the next session of the U.N. council in March 2014.

North Korea criticized the move as "political chicanery."

"We will as always totally reject and disregard the recent 'human rights resolution' against the DPRK (North Korea), a product of political confrontation and conspiracy," Pyongyang's foreign ministry said in an English-language statement carried by its formal news agency, KCNA.

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