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Monday, December 18, 2006

NKorea nuclear plans hurt its people

North Korea should spend its limited resources on its people rather than developing nuclear weapons, a United Nations envoy for human rights in the communist state said today.

''The military-first policy, particularly this expenditure on arms and nuclear proliferation in the DPRK (North Korea), is regrettable because the money should be spent on human development,'' Vitit Muntarbhorn, a UN special rapporteur, told reporters in the South Korean capital.

He was speaking as international negotiations resumed in Beijing to try to end North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. Pyongyang carried out its first atomic test in October.
Muntarbhorn urged North Korean authorities to stop punishing citizens who have been forced to return to the reclusive state.

Aid groups say tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of North Koreans have sought asylum abroad, mostly by fleeing across the northern border into China.

A food shortage brought about by July flooding could increase the flow of refugees, they added.
''It doesn't take much to instruct their officials not to punish those who are sent back to their country of origin. It would nurture political capital for them,'' Muntarbhorn said.
Washington and rights groups have accused North Korea of imprisoning, torturing and executing those who try to flee abroad and are then sent back. Muntarbhorn, a law professor in Thailand, has been in South Korea since last week interviewing North Korean refugees resettled in the South.

He pressed North Korea to allow him to visit the country, to return to bilateral talks with the South and to address the problem of missing Japanese and South Koreans believed to have been abducted by Pyongyang.

Muntarbhorn is to submit a report on human rights in North Korea to the United Nations early next year.



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