A human rights expert has called on the EU to continue strictly implementing the UN sanctions and its own restrictive measures against North Korea.
Speaking on Tuesday at a conference in Tokyo, Willy Fautre, of the Brussels-based NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers, also welcomed apparent improvements in the country's human rights record.
Fautre said that no comprehensive study has ever been carried out to assess the efficiency of the UN and the US sanctions, of the EU restrictive measures and of the overall "naming and shaming" policy by various human rights NGOs and institutions around the world.
However, he added, "It seems that North Korea has partly curbed its repression policy on some issues that have been highly publicised around the world.
"On the basis of fragmented information it seems that the number of executions has diminished, that the imprisonment periods of the repatriated defectors are now reduced, that forced abortions of repatriated pregnant defectors and killings of newborn children are less practiced during their detention.
"It means that North Korea is not totally deaf to pressure of the international community.
"This should be both an encouragement and a source of inspiration for the shaping of EU policies concerning North Korea."
In his speech to the conference, Fautre addressed a number of recommendations to the EU in its dealings with the North Korean regime which he said has the poorest human rights record in the world.
He said, "The EU should go on strictly implementing the UN sanctions and its own restrictive measures, and annually report on them.
"It should also go on pressuring the North Korean leadership through its own mechanisms, including the European parliament delegation for relations with the Korean peninsula to abide by the international human rights standards and to respect its UN commitments."
He said the EU should also press the countries in which defectors have taken refuge to apply the principle of "non-refoulement" and press China to allow the international community to provide direct and unhindered assistance to North Korean defectors.
Fautre told the conference that up to now, North Korea has demonstrated an "extraordinary" ability to survive the UN sanctions of which the EU is part of.
In 2006, sanctions under UN resolution 1718 imposed an embargo on heavy armaments and on material that can be used for ballistic purposes; an assets freeze and a ban on technical assistance, on travels of persons involved in DPKR's nuclear and ballistic programme, as well as on the transfer of luxury goods to North Korea.
"Enforcement of the sanctions is however difficult as it requires intrusive inspections of all cargo entering North Korea, which the main neighbouring country, China, will not do," he added.
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