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N. Korean Diplomat to Address UN Rights Council, Seoul Official Says

FILE - North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong, shown addressing the U.N. General Assembly in September 2014, reportedly will speak before the U.N. Human Rights Council next month.

A South Korean Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday that North Korea would dispatch its top diplomat to a high-level U.N. human rights meeting next week, in an apparent attempt to counter international criticism of the country’s human rights record.

The South Korean official, who asked not to be identified, told the VOA Korean service that North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong was expected to speak at next month's meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Ri would be the first North Korean foreign minister to address the council, which will convene March 2 in Geneva.

Recently, Pyongyang launched an aggressive campaign to cope with mounting international pressure over its treatment of its citizens. The call for improving human rights conditions in the communist country was prompted by a damning report by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry (COI), which accused North Korea of committing crimes again humanity.

According to the South Korean official, Seoul’s vice foreign minister also is expected to speak to the Human Rights Council and will call for further action following the General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution against the North last December.

Some analysts in Seoul say Pyongyang is likely to attempt to discredit the report and accuse Seoul of abusing human rights by attacking South Korea’s National Security Law. That law bans praise or support for North Korea. It was enacted in 1948 to fight communism, and international human rights groups often have accused the South Korean government of using the law to suppress freedom of expression.

“They will repeat the regime’s argument that the COI report is based on fabricated information and will likely say the South Korean government is infringing upon its citizens’ human rights with the implementation of the National Security Law,” said Kim Soo-am, a North Korea expert at the Korean Institute for National Unification, South Korea’s state-run research institute.

Last week, a North Korean diplomat in New York said his country would not honor past international human rights agreements as a protest against a Washington conference on Pyongyang's human rights.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.