December 17, 2018 11:54
North Korea has warned that continued sanctions and pressure to improve human rights "will block the path to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula forever."
North Korea's Foreign Ministry in a statement on Sunday complained that the U.S. slapped sanctions on the North eight times over the last six months "by fabricating all kinds of excuses."
The toughened U.S. sanctions are designed to shock North Korea into returning to the negotiating table. Washington continues to demand that Pyongyang take verifiable steps toward denuclearization, and currently sanctions are focusing on the North's human rights abuses, a particularly sore point.
Meanwhile, a seminar on human rights in North Korea sponsored by the Japanese government in Tokyo threw a sharper spotlight on Pyongyang's egregious abuses.
Fred Warmbier, the father of American student Otto Warmbier who died last year after being held captive in North Korea, attended the seminar on Saturday and said Dec. 12 would have marked his late son's 24th birthday.
He vowed to join hands with the families of Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 80s, and added that North Korea continues to torture and execute foreigners it has taken hostage.
Former U.K. Ambassador to North Korea John Everard told Voice of America that the North siphons off portions of international aid for use by its military and elite. And the former U.S. representative to abortive six-party denuclearization talks, Christopher Hill, told VOA that Pyongyang's rejection of high-level talks demonstrates that it has no real intention to denuclearize.
"I mean the notion of a U.S. special envoy not being able to get a meeting with a North Korean Foreign ministry makes no sense to me," Hill said. "It only makes sense in the context of North Korea not being serious."
He added that North Korea fixates on a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump because he "is the only person who has kind of bought their argument that the problem here is U.S forces on the Korean Peninsula."
Later this week, Stephen Biegun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea, visits Seoul to attend a second U.S.-South Korea working group meeting to discuss waiving sanctions for some inter-Korean projects and looking for ways to resume dialogue. The first meeting took place in Washington D.C. about a month ago.
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