Seoul decided not to mention China by name when it raises the issue of repatriating North Korean defectors against their will at the UN Human Rights Council.
A senior government official on Thursday said Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Bong-hyun will explain the government's position on the seriousness of the human rights situation in North Korea, including the defector issue, in a keynote speech at the 19th UNHRC session that opens Monday.
This will be the first time Seoul has brought up the defector issue at the UNHRC.
Kim will urge "a neighboring country" not to repatriate defectors to the North but refrain from mentioning China directly, since the government worries that being too forceful could backfire.
"We can deliver a sufficient message to China by emphasizing the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to which China is a signatory, and calling for a halt to the repatriation of defectors at the UNHRC," the official said.
A Foreign Ministry official said, "We're stressing China's duty in the international community to abide by the UN treaty on the treatment of refugees to help us solve the defector issue through bilateral negotiations with China. We don't want to put defectors in a bind by creating diplomatic discord with Beijing."
Seoul decided to adopt this method based on a recent report on North Korean human rights to the UNHRC by Marzuki Darusman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights. Darusman urged "countries surrounding the Korean Peninsula" to abide by the principle of the UN treaty instead of mentioning China by name.
But some government officials are worried that this policy might give the impression that the government is too timid to tackle the issue head-on.