The PJ Tatler

State Dept.: UN Human Rights Council Helps Us Address North Korean Forced Labor

With fresh reports of the horrors suffered by North Koreans in forced labor camps, the State Department said it’s counting on the United Nations to help it call out Pyongyang on the abuses.

At yesterday’s daily press briefing, the spokesman was asked whether the issue of forced labor is brought up in food-for-nukes talks with North Korea.

“The United States remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in the DPRK, including forced labor camps,” the State Department said in a media note. “Promoting human rights is a key component of our policy toward North Korea, and how the DPRK addresses human rights will have a significant impact on the prospect for closer U.S.-DPRK ties.”

“In addition to raising these issues in face-to-face meetings, we highlight our specific concerns about human rights in North Korea in our annual human rights report,” the statement added. “Through international organizations, including the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Council, we call attention to specific human rights violations and with our bilateral and multilateral partners, we continue to identify areas where we can improve human rights conditions on the ground in North Korea.”

Membership of the Human Rights Council includes China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia. President Bush boycotted the council in protest, but President Obama decided to rejoin the council, claiming that his administration would reform the body from within. That hasn’t happened.

The Human Rights Council passed a resolution by consensus in March urging Kim Jong-un to make reforms. The body spends the bulk of its time condemning Israel.