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Editorial: China complicit in crimes against humanity

The Australian on grim reality of North Korea:

Former High Court judge Michael Kirby’s account of the “unspeakable atrocities” being committed in the North Korean gulags deserves better than the contemptuous response it has received from China, the one country with the leverage to compel the lunatic regime in Pyongyang to behave differently. The UN Commission of Inquiry headed by Mr. Kirby spent a year taking evidence from 80 victims and witnesses. The catalogue of murder, torture, rape, abduction, enslavement and starvation it has produced should, as it says, provide “a shock to the conscience of humanity.”

As the report concludes, the depredations committed by the Kim dynasty have “no parallel in the contemporary world.” The depravity is reminiscent of some of the evil perpetrated by Nazi Germany and Pol Pot’s Cambodia. The accounts tell of children forced to watch the execution of their parents, starved humans being fed to dogs, the “disappearance” of entire families, inmates in camps being disposed of in pots and starvation being used as a tool of subjugation.

Such diligently researched exposition, however, is not enough to persuade Beijing to start behaving like a responsible global citizen and show concern for people in a country over which it wields overbearing influence. Kirby has recommended the UN refer the Pyongyang regime to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. But Beijing has made it plain it would use its UN Security Council veto to prevent such action, falsely maintaining the report contains “unreasonable criticism” of Pyongyang.

The UN panel’s account is the most comprehensive indictment yet of horrors that have been taking place for decades. China’s new leadership cannot escape responsibility for what is still occurring in its neighbor. Pointedly, the UN panel has warned that Beijing, through its support of North Korea, is complicit in “aiding and abetting crimes against humanity. China’s new leaders should consider that indictment before they veto the ICC action Kirby’s panel has recommended. Any real improvement in North Korea, however, will come about because of direct pressure from Beijing rather than anything that happens in The Hague.

Kirby’s report should also lead to far greater realism about North Korea, particularly in Washington, and about the need for China to pressure Pyongyang to abandon its rogue nuclear program.

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