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Trump invites 9 defectors to White House: RFA

Feb 03,2018
U.S. President Donald Trump is inviting nine North Korean defectors to the White House to discuss human rights abuses by the Pyongyang regime, Radio Free Asia reported.

“A number of sources have told us that nine North Korean defectors will meet with President Trump for about 30 minutes from 9 a.m. Friday at the White House,” RFA reported on Thursday. “They will describe the situation across the border to Trump, National-security adviser H.R. McMaster and other White House officials.”

RFA reported that the defectors include Ji Seong-ho, head of Now Action & Unity for Human Rights in Seoul, and an RFA reporter who defected from the North.

Ji received a standing ovation at Trump’s state of the union address Tuesday.

The White House is hosting a press briefing by Matt Pottinger, deputy assistant to the president and senior director for Asia, on Friday afternoon, who will be joined by “special guests,” likely to be the defectors.

“Donald Trump singled out a North Korean defector during the State of the Union address, seeking to turn the human-rights activist into a symbol of the brutality of Kim Jong-un’s regime,” the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

“The North cringes every time the human rights issue is brought up in the international arena, like when the United Nations adopts resolutions that criticize North Korea for its human rights abuses,” said Kim Hyun-wook, a professor of American Studies at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy. “You can tell by the way the North uses its state media to strongly criticize these UN resolutions. If President Trump keeps up the resolute stance against the North, it will probably make the prospects for U.S.-North dialogue less likely in the near future.”

Kim added that the move may be a message for South Korea as well.

“Some experts analyze the move as a message for the Moon Jae-in administration,” he said, “to tell the South not to veer from the U.S. approach of strong sanctions and pressure on the North.”

The two Koreas decided to field a joint women’s ice hockey team at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics taking place from Feb. 9, for the first time in Olympic history.

Seoul and Pyongyang on Jan. 9 held their first high-level talks since December 2015. The two Koreas restored a military hotline that had been suspended since February 2016.

“U.S. attention to human rights sends signals to other members of the six-party talks,” said Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“And it reminds Seoul that while coordinated engagement is desirable, no one should give the Kim regime a blank check for the sake of conflict avoidance and dialogue.”

“By bringing up the North’s human rights issue, Trump may gain some acknowledgement by the international community,” said a source of the JoongAng Ilbo’s in Washington D.C. “Trump can improve his image as a rational president and his move is probably welcomed by the Republican Party as it prepares for midterm elections on November.”

BY ESTHER CHUNG, CHOI IK-JAE [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]