See More on Facebook

Diplomacy

US sanctions N. Korea over human rights

North Korea condemns the US’ decision to impose sanctions on its high-ranking officials for human rights abuse.


Written by

Updated: December 12, 2018

The US on Monday imposed sanctions on three senior North Korean officials for human rights abuses, amid Pyongyang’s continued silence in its denuclearization talks with Washington.

The US Treasury Department announced the sanctions on Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party; Jong Kyong-thaek, minister of state security; and Pak Kwang-ho, director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department.

The Treasury Department cited “brutal” human rights abuses and censorship as well as the death of American college student Otto Warmbier, who died in June 2017 shortly after he was released from captivity in North Korea, as the reasons behind the sanctions.

The sanctions seize assets the officials may have in the US and ban any US entity from financial transactions with them, but they are expected to be largely symbolic, as North Korea is already under multilayered sanctions for its nuclear weapons program.

On Monday, the US State Department also released a report on human rights abuses and censorship in North Korea.

“The Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues to censor the media and commit serious human rights violations and abuses, including violations of individuals’ freedom of expression,” said the report.

North Korea on Tuesday denounced Washington’s decision through its state-run newspaper.

The US’ blacklisting of Pyongyang as one of the worst human trafficking countries is an “intolerable political provocation” and a “hostile act” that runs against the goodwill spirit of the Singapore summit between Trump and Kim, read an article in Rodong Sinmun.

The fresh sanctions came as US President Donald Trump seeks to hold a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un early next year amid a lack of progress on the North’s denuclearization.

North Korea remains silent, without engaging the US in working-level or senior-level negotiations for denuclearization, though its leader committed to working toward complete denuclearization during the June 12 summit in Singapore.

North Korea has demanded the US take “corresponding measures,” which are believed to include sanctions relief, while the US has maintained that pressure can only be eased if Pyongyang takes concrete steps to end its nuclear program.

The latest US move targets the key officials of the North Korea regime.

“Choe Ryong-hae is central to maintaining the Kim Jong-un regime. He is the de facto No. 2 man with control over the party, government and military, followed by Pak Gwang-ho and Jong Kyong-thaek in terms of the amount of control they hold in North Korea,” said Cho Han-bum, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

But experts say that the sanctions are more likely to be simply the bureaucracy doing its job, rather than a negotiating tactic to gain leverage in negotiations with North Korea.

Monday marked the 70th annual International Human Rights Day.

“What US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump’s security adviser John Bolton say carry a heavier weight because they are the ones close to the US president,” Cho said. “I don’t think Trump meant to send a warning to the Kim Jong-un regime through the sanctions.”

John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, said last week that the US will consider lifting sanctions when there is “performance,” a remark which was largely seen as lowering the bar for the North, in an effort to lead it to the negotiating table.

“Standing up for such rights and freedoms is a foreign policy priority that represents the best traditions of the United States,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said.

Woo Jung-yeop, a research fellow at the Sejong Institute, also noted that the Treasury Department is playing by the book.

“It is just part of a manual. I don’t think the department had an intention to use the human rights issue as a negotiating tool in denuclearization talks with North Korea,” Woo said.

The Trump administration has downplayed concerns over North Korea’s human rights, saying the priority is getting North Korea denuclearized. Trump has also publicly praised Kim, who is believed to have executed his family members and ordered the assassination of his half brother in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“The Trump administration has been consistent in the implementation of sanctions. It could discuss sanctions relief at the negotiating table with North Korea, but it does not intend to remove sanctions first to lead the North to the negotiating table,” he said.

South Korean government also appeared to downplay the meaning of the new sanctions.

The US government has announced on a regular basis a report on North Korea’s human rights violations and those subject to sanctions in accordance with its North Korea sanctions law,” Noh Kyu-duk, spokesperson for Seoul’s Foreign Ministry, said at a regular briefing Tuesday, adding the announcement is thought to be in line with such efforts by Washington.

South Korea has maintained that it continues efforts to improve human rights of North Korean people, alongside the international community.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


About the Author: ANN’s Board member Mr Zaffar Abbas, Editor of Pakistan’s Dawn has won the 2019 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protest Journalists.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy

China pledges international pandemic aid

 Producers of medical goods urged to meet demand from affected countries. China has pledged to do its best to offer aid to countries and international organisations affected by COVID-19 to help contain the outbreak, and businesses are being urged to boost production of epidemic prevention materials to meet demand from abroad. The announcement was made at a meeting of the leading group of China’s coronavirus response, chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday. Relevant departments and local authorities must step up co-ordination to closely monitor and analyse the quick spread of the outbreak outside China and roll out more targeted measures to prevent the import and export of infection, the group said in a statement. It is important to further


By China Daily
March 13, 2020

Diplomacy

Back to work in Beijing, with tough measures in place

 Mandatory quarantine for those coming from overseas; some Wuhan businesses may reopen. As most of China attempts to return to normalcy after an extensive lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the capital Beijing has been carefully trying to strike a balance between having people restart work while also trying to keep out imported infections, and yesterday ordered a mandatory quarantine for all international arrivals. This comes as the Hubei government announced that some businesses in Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicentre, would gradually be allowed to reopen. On Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, his first visit to the city since the outbreak, a sign that the crisis could finally be easing after the government’s toug


By The Straits Times
March 12, 2020

Diplomacy

Xi vows victory over coronavirus in Wuhan

President expresses condolences to families of people who died in epidemic. President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday that prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak remains the top priority and most important task, even amid the recent positive signs. Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remark during his inspection tour in the outbreak’s epicentre, Wuhan, capital of Hubei province. The spread of the novel coronavirus has been basically curbed in Hubei and Wuhan, Xi said, adding that initial success has been made in stabilising the situation and turning the tide in Hubei and Wuhan. Xi encouraged local residents and front-line worke


By China Daily
March 11, 2020

Diplomacy

China sets example in fighting virus

Epidemic reveals inadequacies in global governance; Beijing says it’s ready to help. China’s response to novel coronavirus pneumonia has set an example for the world in coping with the contagion and offered experience in advancing global public health governance, officials and experts said. The COVID-19 outbreak has also raised the alarm about global public health security and reminded countries that co-operation and co-ordination are needed to deal with challenges as infectious diseases can rapidly escalate into global emergencies, they said. There is a growing positive momentum in epidemic control nationwide thanks to the “comprehensive, thorough and rigorous” measures that China has taken to contain the virus, they said, noting that the daily


By China Daily
March 10, 2020

Diplomacy

More than 800,000 people return Beijing under quarantine

“There’s still a risk of an outbreak of the disease with people coming to Beijing from other cities and countries,” Zhang Tongjun, deputy head of a group for prevention and control work in the city’s residential communities, said during an afternoon conference. About 827,000 people who came back to Beijing from outside the city are still in a 14-day quarantine to see if they had been infected with the novel coronavirus, an official said on Friday. “There’s still a risk of an outbreak of the disease with people coming to Beijing from other cities and countries,” Zhang Tongjun, deputy head of a group for prevention and control work in the city’s residential communities, said during an afternoon conference. Z


By China Daily
March 9, 2020

Diplomacy

South Korea declares third city as special care zone as cases spike

President Moon receives letter of support from North Korean leader as infected cases cross 6,000. South Korea has declared a third city a “special care zone” to boost its capability to fight a spike in coronavirus infections, with cases nationwide soaring beyond 6,000. The death toll stands at 42, mostly the elderly with underlying health conditions, while 88 people have recovered, including 47 discharged yesterday. The care zone announcement came as the presidential Blue House revealed that South Korean President Moon Jae-in received a letter on Wednesday from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressing support and comfort to the people battling the coronavirus outbreak, adding that he is confident they will “prevail in this fight wit


By The Straits Times
March 6, 2020