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U.S. to pursue sanctions on N. Koreans for human rights abuses: Russel

2016/05/04 04:47

WASHINGTON, May 3 (Yonhap) -- The United States is determined to identify and sanction those responsible for human rights abuses in North Korea, the top U.S. diplomat handling Asian affairs said Tuesday.

Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, made the remark during a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, noting that the latest executive order President Barack Obama issued in March to punish the North calls for sanctions on the North's human rights violators.

"The reason that that provision is in the executive order is to make it possible for us first to develop the evidence and second to act on it. The principle of accountability is a feature of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2270 as well," Russel said. "I think that the prospect of officials being held to account for systemic abuses of universal human rights is a serious one and that is one way in which we and the international community can keep faith with the North Korean people."

   Russel also said he believes that North Korean people, when they are eventually liberated, will "ask who stood by them" and the U.S. is firmly committed to be among the supporters for them.

On Monday, Amb. Robert King, special representative for North Korean human rights issues, made a similar remark.

"We're looking at the issue of how we might identify individuals that meet our legislative requirements to apply sanctions against individuals and there are a whole range of issues that we're looking at. People involved in abductions will be one that we are looking at," he said.

In Tuesday's address, Russel spoke about how hard the U.S. has tried to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear program for a better future, stressing that the communist nation has refused to hold credible negotiations.

"We've conducted face-to-face talks -- in full view of the media, and in private. We've supported Track II efforts and exchanges. We've tried bilateral, trilateral, and multilateral efforts. We've spelled out the assistance and support we could offer on the road to denuclearization. We've reaffirmed that the commitments we made in the 2005 Joint Statement remain solid," he said.

"And no matter how we've twisted the Rubik's cube, Pyongyang has held stubbornly to dogma. America's alliance with the ROK constitutes a 'hostile policy' that justifies Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs," he said.

Russel recently was quoted as saying that the U.S. is ready to take "defense-related measures" if the North conducts a fifth nuclear test, prompting speculation that those measures might include military action against the North.

Asked to elaborate what those measures mean, Russel said it means defensive measures.

"The defense of the Republic of Korea and of Japan as well as the defense of the American homeland is priority No. 1 for President Obama, for any president of the United States," he said.

"It's a matter of straightforward logic that we continue to upgrade our deterrence and our defensive measures both in strategy and equipment and in technology in order to adapt to and account for any progress by North Korea in its ability to threaten us with missiles or with potentially nuclear weapons," he added.