Posted : 2007-11-21 09:33
Updated : 2007-11-21 09:33

Seoul Abstains in UN Resolution Vote on NK Human Rights

UNITED NATIONS _ A U.N. committee passed a resolution Tuesday pressing North Korea to improve its human rights situation, with South Korea abstaining.

The non-binding resolution, submitted by Japan and the European Union, passed with 97 ayes, 23 nays and 60 abstentions.

South Korea, which voted for last year's resolution, said it decided to abstain "in consideration of special status of inter-Korean relations." Leading up to the vote, the United States repeatedly urged Seoul to again vote yes.

North Korea's envoy charged the resolution is based on false information and cast a no vote.

The U.N. Third Committee, which deals with social and humanitarian issues, adopted the resolution expressing concerns at "continuing reports of systematic, widespread and grave violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights" in North Korea.

It also reiterates concerns at North Korea's abduction of foreigners, referring mostly to kidnapped Japanese citizens, and calls for their immediate return.

The United Nations welcomes the recent progress at the inter-Korean summit and six-nation denuclearization talks, it said.

North Korea was also pressed to allow humanitarian agencies to confirm aid delivery to all parts of the country based on need, making sure the resources are not misallocated.

The resolution goes to the U.N. plenary session next month, but its passage is guaranteed since all 192 member states participated in Tuesday's vote.

The North Korean human rights resolution has been submitted every year since 2003, but Seoul has consistently been absent or abstained from the vote until last year, when it cast the yes vote.

Seoul's decision, reached after much debate at home, is likely to remain controversial. Last year's vote coincided with the election of South Korea's foreign minister, Ban Ki-moon, as U.N. secretary general. The abstention could reflect negatively on Ban's worldwide call to improve human rights.

South Korea's ambassador did not make remarks on his country's decision this year.

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