The Biden administration on Sunday elevated its push to draw attention to human rights abuses by the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, asserting that the regime “continues to exploit its own citizens, including through mass mobilizations of school children and forced labor.”
“Addressing [North Korea’s] egregious human rights situation remains a priority for the United States, and we continue to work with the international community to highlight abuses and violations,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement marking the department’s recognition of the start of the 20th annual North Korea Freedom Week.
Mr. Miller praised the “courage of the North Korean defector and human rights community” for drawing international attention to abuses carried out by the regime, which he said makes a practice of diverting resources “to build up its unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.”
“We remain deeply concerned about the plight of North Korean asylum seekers, including some 2,000 North Koreans detained in China who are at risk of repatriation to the DPRK,” Mr. Miller said. “North Koreans forcibly repatriated are reportedly commonly subjected to torture, arbitrary detention, forced abortion, other forms of gender-based violence, and summary execution.”
North Korea has built nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBM] in violation of repeated U.N. Security Council resolutions during recent decades. The former Trump administration sought direct diplomacy with the Kim regime, pursuing a major denuclearization agreement in exchange for potential relief of broad economic sanctions on North Korea.
The pursuit ultimately failed after two summits between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, whose regime has since ramped up ICBM tests and nuclear activities.
While the Biden administration has struggled to move the ball forward on nuclear diplomacy with the Kim regime, administration officials have recently increased efforts to draw attention to human rights abuses in North Korea.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield made headlines last month by chairing a rare meeting of the Security Council that focused on abuses. The Aug. 17 event marked the first time in more than five years that the Security Council held an open public meeting on the Kim regime’s human rights record.