BEIJING, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- China rejected criticism about abetting the North Korean regime's alleged crimes against humanity by forcibly repatriating North Korean defectors.
"We totally cannot accept this accusation," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in her media briefing Tuesday in response to a U.N. investigation into widespread human rights abuses in North Korea, led by its unpredictable leader Kim Jong Un.
Hua rejected the criticism about China's handling of the North Korean defectors. She also did not think taking the case against North Korea to the International Criminal Court would help the situation.
South Korea's Yonhap New said there are tens of thousands of North Koreans hiding North Korea-China border areas. It said as the isolated Communist country's main ally, China considers these North Koreans as illegal migrants and not asylum-seekers.
The report said China routinely repatriates these people back to North Korea, where they face harsh penalties, even death.
"We do not refer those people as refugees, but illegal border-crossers," Hua said, but did not say how many such defectors are hiding in China. She said China follows international and domestic laws and humanitarian principles in dealing with them.
She said referring the issue "to the ICC will not help improve a country's human rights conditions."
The three-member panel of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry, after a lengthy investigation into the situation in North Korea, released its report earlier this week on the unspeakable atrocities as narrated by defectors. It said the allegations revealed a state "that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world."
Yonhap said submitting the case to the ICC could lead to the North Korean leader facing charges over the situation in his country.