US backs UN envoy trip to N.Korea under right conditions

The United States would back a trip by the top UN rights investigator to North Korea provided he can visit the country`s notorious prison camps, a US official said Wednesday.

Marzuki Darusman, the UN special rapporteur on North Korea, on Tuesday urged the General Assembly to refer a damning report by a UN-mandated Commission of Inquiry to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for possible charges of crimes against humanity.

The report details systematic rights abuses in isolated North Korea, including a vast network of prison camps and documented cases of torture, enslavement and rape.

Darusman`s presentation on Tuesday came a day after a rare meeting with North Korean officials -- the first between Pyongyang and a UN rights investigator in 10 years -- during which the North offered to invite UN envoys to visit, but objected to any referral to the ICC.

A US official told AFP that Washington would "welcome a visit by the special rapporteur to the DPRK (North Korea) so long as any visit is conducted in a transparent manner and he is provided access to the prison camps."

The United States "remains deeply concerned about the ongoing, systematic, and widespread human rights violations in the DPRK" documented in the report, the official added.

Last month, US Secretary of State John Kerry denounced human rights abuses in North Korea and called on Pyongyang to shut down its penal colonies riddled with "barbarity and inhumanity."

"You should close those camps, you should shut this evil system down," Kerry said at an event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

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