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Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
North Korea issued a strongly worded statement on Thursday denouncing a recently held human rights conference hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington D.C. on Monday.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) published the statement, credited to an unnamed spokesperson from North Korea’s foreign ministry, who levied criticism at the U.S. government despite the conference being a privately organized event.
“In Washington on Feb. 17 the U.S. held a ‘conference on human rights’ against the DPRK under the absurd pretext of the first anniversary of the ‘report of the UN Commission of Inquiry’ (COI) on the human rights situation in the DPRK,” the spokesperson said.
“If the U.S. and its allied forces are truly interested in human rights, they should mind their own business by halting plot-breeding racket such as ‘conference’ (sic) and their human rights abuses such as tortures in the U.S. and suppression on charges of the violation of the ‘Security Law’ in south Korea, condemned by the world.”
The conference, titled “North Korean Human Rights: The Road Ahead,” featured a wide range of international experts and speakers, including all three UN COI commissioners, North Korean defectors, human rights investigators and former and current U.S. government officials.
North Korea’s Ambassador to the UN, Jang Il Hun, had previously called for the U.S. government to cancel the conference and threatened to respond “very strongly” if the request was not granted. The foreign ministry spokesperson also issued further threats to the U.S. government in Thursday’s statement.
“We are fully ready for any confrontation with the U.S. and will shatter the reckless ‘human rights’ racket by the hostile forces through our toughest reaction,” the spokesperson said.
Jang also requested that North Korean officials be allowed to attend the conference in order to present their defense as “the country concerned.” Jang told reporters that the U.S. Department of State’s response was that the event was not a U.S. government event.
The foreign ministry spokesperson also attempted to discredit the UN COI report and the accusations of extensive human rights abuses within the country.
“It has already been brought to light that the ‘report of COI’ and the ‘human rights resolution’ of the UN General Assembly which were cooked up by the U.S. last year were forcibly adopted on the basis of the false testimonies of ‘defectors from the north,’” the spokesperson said.
The statement is likely referring to the recent revelations that prominent defector Shin Dong-hyuk lied about and hid parts of his story and testimony to the COI.
In his opening remarks the head commissioner of the UN COI, Michael Kirby, spoke about the changes to Shin’s testimony of his life in a North Korean prison camp and whether or not they discredited the COI report as North Korea and its diplomats claim.
“Members of the COI will tell you that we were comfortable and sure of the recommendations and conclusions we put before the international community at the UN, because the testimony was far more than the testimony of Mr. Shin,” Kirby said.
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