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NKorea denounces UN criticism of its human rights record

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BERLIN — North Korea's foreign minister on Tuesday denounced criticism of Pyongyang's human rights record, dismissing a U.N. report that concluded crimes against humanity were committed there and telling the top U.N. rights body that the United States is engaged in a "human rights racket."

Last year's report by a panel of U.N. experts detailed abuses including mass starvation and forced abortions. The panel, which interviewed hundreds of defectors, recommended that North Korea's human rights situation be referred to the International Criminal Court.

The panel also sent a letter to leader Kim Jong Un warning he could be held accountable.

Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva that "hostile forces are only interested to hear from such scum of mankind as the so-called defectors."

"The act of cooking up the report of the commission of inquiry based on lies of a few such criminals is itself a misdeed which is completely against the aspiration of the U.N. for civilization and rule of law," Ri said.

North Korea has sought to use recent backtracking by prominent defector Shin Dong-hyuk on details of his life in the North's prison system to discredit the entire U.N. report. However, the U.N. official in charge of investigating human rights violations in North Korea says he stands by its findings of widespread abuses.

Ri argued that "the core testimonies that became the basis of the report ... were proven to be false recently" and called for resolutions based on the report to be revoked immediately.

Pursuing human rights issues "is the stereotyped method of the U.S. ... to smear the countries disobedient to it," Ri asserted, adding that Washington has "started to desperately cling to the anti-(North Korea) human rights racket, particularly since the last year."

Earlier Tuesday, Ri told the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva that annual U.S.-South Korean military drills launched this week "are unprecedentedly provocative in nature and have especially high possibility of sparking off a war." The allies say the drills are purely defensive.