North Korea has warned the United States it “will be made to pay dearly” for any criticism of the country’s human rights record, North Korean state news agency said Saturday.
The statement is just the latest in a slew of threats coming from North Korea. Earlier this month, a top North Korean official said the country will send a “Christmas gift” to the US, but what that present contains will depend on the outcome of ongoing talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
A US administration official told CNN Friday that North Korea may be preparing to test engines and other components of its missile program, but senior military commanders said that the US is ready for “whatever” Pyongyang might do.
On Saturday, the KCNA news agency said: “If the US dares to impair our system by taking issue over the ‘human rights issue,’ it will be made to pay dearly for such an act.”
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry Affairs spokesperson accused “Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor of the U.S. State Department” of making “reckless remarks against the DPRK” during an interview with Voice of America, according to the KCNA statement.
In the interview, Robert Destro, the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, told Voice of America the US was “deeply concerned about what’s going on in North Korea.”
“I think the credible evidence that’s coming out of North Korea speaks for itself,” Destro was quoted by Voice of America as saying.
The North Korean foreign ministry spokesperson said Destro’s “malicious words” came at the time when the relations between the US and North Korea are “reaching a highly delicate point” and would further aggravate the already tense situation on the Korean peninsula. “Like pouring oil over burning fire,” KCNA reported.
The spokesperson also stated that people in North Korea “fully enjoy genuine freedom and rights, being the masters of the country” and “that human rights are the state rights and the sovereign rights of country and nation.”
The Trump administration has been trying to negotiate with North Korea to have it dismantle its nuclear program, which poses a threat to US allies South Korea and Japan, and thousands of US troops based in both countries. Those talks have been stalled, even as Pyongyang has pursued technical improvements to its program that increasingly could put the US within range of its rockets.
Asked about recent comments and indicators from North Korea that Pyongyang may be getting closer to a long-range missile test or some other provocative act, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said Friday that the Pentagon does not “discuss any intelligence or indicators” on what the US may be seeing in the way of preparations by North Korea.
Hande Atay reported from Atlanta, Sophie Jeong reported from Seoul, Barbara Starr reported from Washington and Ivana Kottasová wrote from London.