Seoul (AFP) – North Korea condemned US criticism of its human rights record as “ridiculous”, days before leader Kim Jong Un’s summit with the South and ahead of a meeting with US President Donald Trump.
The isolated North has been accused of a litany of state-sanctioned rights abuses including extrajudicial killing, torture, brutal crackdowns on dissent and even kidnapping foreign citizens.
The US State Department’s rights report on the North, released last week, described “egregious human rights violations” in the authoritarian state from public executions to widespread surveillance of citizens.
Pyongyang angrily slammed the report for “viciously slandering” the nation, accusing the US of being a “hotbed” of rights abuses itself, beset by “cancer-like” gun violence and “all sorts of injustice, deprivation of rights”.
Washington was appointing itself as a “human rights judge”, the official KCNA news agency said in a commentary late Tuesday.
“This is really ridiculous and reminds one of a thief crying to stop the thief,” it said.
“Its true aim is to disintegrate those countries which are disobedient to it and to create a pretext for political, military and economic aggression and pressure.”
KCNA also described the North as the “cradle of genuine life of working people”.
The remarks came days before Kim holds a historic summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in — Kim’s second meeting with a foreign leader — ahead of a highly-anticipated encounter with Trump.
Friday’s talks — the third-ever inter-Korea summit after meetings in 2000 and 2007 — will focus on persuading Kim to give up his widely-condemned nuclear weapons and easing military tension between the two Koreas.
They could discuss a path towards a peace treaty to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, which stopped with a ceasefire, and reunions of families left divided by the conflict.
Seoul’s foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha said earlier that Pyongyang’s human rights record would not be discussed at Friday’s summit despite calls by rights groups asking Moon to raise the issue with Kim.
US-based Human Rights Watch urged Seoul to “rethink” its decision, saying Tuesday that the summit is a “crucial moment… for the long-suffering people of North Korea”.
Moon told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he would raise the issue of Japanese citizens kidnapped by the North’s agents to train Pyongyang’s spies — an enduring issue in Tokyo.
“I plan to tell… Kim that resolving the Japanese abduction issue will help establish peace in northeast Asia,” Moon’s office cited him as saying.
Trump has occasionally slammed the North’s dire rights record, prominently featuring a North Korean refugee in his State of the Union address.
But the US president has rarely raised the issue in the build-up to the summit, describing Kim as “very open” and “very honourable” on Tuesday — in contrast to the colourful personal insults he issued last year, when he dubbed the young leader “Rocket Man”.
Trump on Tuesday also urged Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programme and existing weapons.