China said Monday it would oppose any move at the United Nations to refer North Korea's leadership to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.
In an unprecedented move, according to leaked reports, a three-member UN panel will later Monday recommend the referral of North Korea to the ICC in the Hague.
"I myself haven't seen the report, but our relevant position is clear-cut on this: issues concerning human rights should be solved through constructive dialogue on an equal footing," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing.
"To submit this report to the ICC will not help resolve the human rights situation in one country," she added.
The reported move is the culmination of a year-long investigation by the panel into Pyongyang's human rights record.
In September, a UN-mandated investigator spoke of "unspeakable atrocities" in North Korea's political prison camps, citing survivors who saw babies drowned, had relatives killed before their eyes, and lived on vermin.
At the time, North Korean diplomat Kim Yong-Ho denied the allegations, telling the UN Human Rights Council the evidence had been "fabricated" by "forces hostile" to his country, singling out Washington, Tokyo and Brussels.
China is the North's key ally and protector, providing badly needed trade and aid for fear that a collapse of the regime could unleash chaos across the border and allow the United States to bolster its presence in Asia.
Yet Pyongyang routinely defies Beijing's calls for calm, restraint and denuclearisation, pushing ahead with nuclear weapons tests and issuing apocalyptic threats against the United States and South Korea.