President Donald Trump revealed that he did not discuss North Korea’s extensive human rights abuses with leading official Kim Yong-chol after the two men held talks at the White House on Friday.
Considered by some to be the North Korean dictator’s right-hand man, senior North Korean official Kim Yong-chol was there to deliver a personal letter from Kim Jong-un, as peace negotiations between the two countries appear to make progress.
In a press conference following the meeting, Trump confirmed that the issue of North Korea’s extensive human rights abuses was not brought up.
Trump did indicate that he might bring up the issue with dictator Kim Jong-un when the pair meet in Singapore, having previously canceled the planned summit over the “tremendous anger and open hostility” displayed in North Korean statements.
In response to a reporter’s question on whether human rights were discussed Friday, Trump said, “We talked about a lot of things, but the big deal will be on June 12th, and again, it’s a process. I think it’s probably going to be a very successful, ultimately a successful process.”
Among the long list of documented North Korean state human rights abuses are sending thousands of people to state-run gulags, public executions, the kidnapping of foreigners, the persecution of religious groups, and running the country as a one-party totalitarian regime.
Kim Yong-chol’s arrival in Washington comes days after he dined with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York, after which Pompeo expressed confidence talks were “moving in the right direction.”
He was also linked to the 2014 cyber-attack on Sony Pictures in an attempt to block the release of the comedy film The Interview, mocking the Kim regime. He is the now most senior figure to visit the White House since a senior North Korean envoy met with Bill Clinton in 2000.
In February, Kim Yong-chol controversially led North Korea’s delegation to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, with South Korea’s conservative politicians describing him as a “diabolical war criminal” who “deserves death by hanging in the street.”
The 73-year-old official remains one of the Treasury Department’s “Specially Designated Persons,” sanctions that mean his “assets are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.”
In 2010, the sanctioned Kim for his role Pyongyang’s intelligence operations, deeming his influence as representing “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.