United States sanctioned three North Korean officials for alleged rights abuses

Vastavam web: The United States said on Monday it had sanctioned three North Korean officials, including a top aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, for serious human rights abuses and censorship. The U.S. Treasury named the men as Ryong Hae Choe, an aide close to Kim who leads the Workers’ Party of Korea Organization and Guidance Department; State Security Minister Kyong Thaek Jong; and Propaganda and Agitation Department head Kwang Ho Pak.

The sanctions, which freeze any assets the officials may have under U.S. jurisdiction and generally bar them from transactions with anyone in the United States, were announced as the U.S. State Department released a six-monthly report on North Korean abuses. “Human rights abuses in North Korea remain among the worst in the world and include extrajudicial killings, forced labour, torture, prolonged arbitrary detention, rape, forced abortions, and other sexual violence,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement accompanying the report.

In a separate statement, the Treasury said the sanctions “shine a spotlight on North Korea’s reprehensible treatment of those in North Korea, and serve as a reminder of North Korea’s brutal treatment of U.S. citizen Otto Warmbier.” Warmbier was an American student who died in June 2017 after 17 months of detention in North Korea, which contributed to already tense exchanges between Pyongyang and Washington, primarily over North Korea’s nuclear development program.

Talks that had been planned for Nov. 8 between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol and that aimed to pave the way for a second summit were cancelled with 24 hours’ notice.