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North warns against human rights talk

State media sends message to Trump ahead of summit
Mar 16,2018
North Korea has a history of responding to any critique of its human rights record with vitriolic commentaries via state-run news agencies.

The Kim Jong-un regime has raised the frequency of those reports in recent days - an apparent message to U.S. President Donald Trump not to bring up the issue at his upcoming summit with Kim Jong-un.

While the summit talks are widely expected to focus on the denuclearization of North Korea and other security issues, Pyongyang’s human rights abuses could be raised by the U.S. as well. Trump’s administration has emphasized them as part of its so-called maximum pressure campaign on the regime.

On Thursday, the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper called Washington’s accusations an “anti-North Korea human rights scheme,” saying the United States was hurting North Koreans’ by threatening their sense of security and through sanctions.

“The United States is full of jobless and homeless people who spend the night awake in the cold and die,” read a Korean version of the article.

“It’s a country where various heinous crimes like murder and burglary prevail.”

A South Korean government official said it appeared the North was trying to warn the United States not to raise its human rights abuses when Kim meets with Trump because if the White House chief does, talks could be totally deadlocked, a lesson that can be learned from experience.

In 2000, Pyongyang agreed with Washington to set up liaison offices in each other’s capitals, but the process floundered soon afterwards when the U.S. Congress took issue with the North’s mistreatment of its own people.

The North has refrained from railing against U.S. “imperial rule” after Trump agreed to talk with Kim face-to-face last week, but it also hasn’t reported anything about either summit coming in the next few weeks: one with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the other with Trump.

“North Korea isn’t mentioning the fact that a North-U.S. summit was forthcoming” via its state-run media, said Jeon Young-sun, a research professor at Konkuk University in Seoul, “but it does seem to be fearful of the ramifications that a meeting between [Kim] and Trump, which has been labeled an archenemy, would bring.”

Jeon continued, “The North appears to be vaccinating its people against lowering its guard or holding some sort of an illusion about the U.S. after the summit.”

BY JEONG YONG-SOO [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]