US envoy vows to make clear 'inextricable' link between N. Korea's human rights abuses, threats
The new US envoy for North Korean human rights issues pledged efforts Monday to shine a light on the "inextricable" connection between Pyongyang's rights abuses and its security threats.
Ambassador Julie Turner made the remarks at a forum, underscoring that the "repressive political climate" in the North allows the recalcitrant regime to divert a large share of public resources to its weapons development programs.
Her remarks came as a debate lingers over whether the resolution of the North's nuclear quandary should take precedence over the North Korean human rights issue to ensure the growing security challenge can be more efficiently dealt with.
"We cannot resolve the DPRK's threats to international security without addressing the human rights crisis in North Korea," she said at the Korea Global Forum co-hosted by South Korea's unification ministry and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"DPRK human rights violations and abuses are inextricably linked with the country's unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs," she added, using the acronym for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Turner took office last month, filling a vacancy that had lasted more than six years. Her official swearing-in ceremony took place Monday.
At the forum, Turner called attention to North Korean workers who have been forced to work at home and abroad to contribute to the North's weapons program.
"Forced labor, both domestically and overseas, also plays a key role in sustaining the government and generating the revenue it uses for its weapons program," she said.
"I look forward to working with the ROK government and other partners and allies to make clear the link between the regime's human rights violations and abuses and its weapons program," she added, using the acronym for the South's official name, the Republic of Korea.
In a similar vein, efforts for accountability and engagement are not necessarily in a "zero-sum" relationship, the ambassador pointed out.
"I will seek to coordinate with the ROK and other like-minded governments to advance accountability for those responsible for human rights violations and abuses in North Korea," she said.
Turner also underscored the importance of identifying areas of cooperation with the North, where the regime may be open to change through cooperation with the United States, international organizations and civil society.
"For example, in September, the DPRK Supreme People's Assembly discussed as its top issue laws guaranteeing the rights of persons with disabilities, which may provide an opening for conversations about progress on human rights," she said.
"These efforts hold the DPRK to account while also pursuing cooperation, and areas of opportunity are not oppositional but intertwined." (Yonhap)
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