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Expect worse At home and abroad

ICC Note: While North Korea has verbally agreed to shut down its nuclear program, and the world waits to see if it will follow through, its human rights abuses including the persecution of Christians continues.

6/22/07 North Korea (The Economist) – BETTER news, in dealings with North Korea , is rarely as good as it appears. Prospects for stripping Kim Jong Il of his bomb-making capabilities appeared to brighten with the news that inspectors have been summoned to talks next week about shutting and sealing the Yongbyon nuclear reactor that has provided him with an estimated eight to ten weapons-worth of plutonium. Already, the top American official dealing with the country, Christopher Hill, has paid a flying visit to Pyongyang . And despite pressure from China and others, the United Nations Human Rights Council has resolved not to fire the special rapporteurs looking into egregious abuses— North Korea ‘s included. Yet the threat Mr Kim poses to his neighbours, and to his people, is no less potent…

To clinch the February deal America had agreed to the release of $25m of Mr Kim’s mostly ill-gotten gains that were frozen at Banco Delta Asia in Macau . But Mr Kim upped the ante: the money had to be returned through the international banking system—a difficult business—in the hope other banks would resume dealings with his regime. This week Mr Kim got his money his way—a success unlikely to soften his tactics…

Japan vows not to normalise relations, nor to help finance the six-party deal, until Mr Kim tells more about the abduction over the years of at least 17 Japanese citizens (the true number is much greater). Its prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has George Bush’s assurance that America won’t normalise relations either until the abductee issue is tackled.

If that resolve holds, it will cheer those trying to ensure that North Korea ‘s appalling human-rights abuses are not overlooked in the push for a nuclear deal. A report this week by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a British-based human-rights group, points out that alongside the Japanese and hundreds of South Koreans, others have been snatched from elsewhere in Asia, the Middle East and Europe . But it is ordinary North Koreans who suffer most: over the years an estimated 500,000 to 1m have been executed or have died from ill-treatment in Mr Kim’s gulag.

The CSW report calls on the Security Council to set up a commission of inquiry, and it marshals its evidence to show that the Kim regime has a prima facie case to answer for legally recognised crimes against humanity—from widespread torture, to mass killing and other inhumane acts. Its persecution of Christians, Buddhists and others may also have breached the genocide convention.

But veto-wielding China is already under pressure for sending would-be escapees back to North Korea and punishment. It is unlikely to want further UN scrutiny of North Korea ‘s nasty habits. Mr Kim is no doubt counting on that.

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