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U.S. redesignates N. Korea as violator of religious freedom

All News 00:56 January 05, 2018

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (Yonhap) -- The United States has redesignated North Korea as a violator of religious freedom for the 17th consecutive year, the State Department said Thursday.

North Korea is among 10 countries that were redesignated as Countries of Particular Concern for engaging in or tolerating "systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom," the department's spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

Violations include torture, degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charge and abduction or clandestine detention. The countries designated are subject to further action by the U.S., including economic sanctions.

The designations were made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Dec. 22 in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act, according to Nauert. The legislation requires the president to make the designations each year, and that authority has been delegated to the secretary of state.

"The protection of religious freedom is vital to peace, stability, and prosperity," Nauert said. "These designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries."

The other nine are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Pakistan was placed on a Special Watch List for "severe violations of religious freedom."

"In far too many places around the globe, people continue to be persecuted, unjustly prosecuted, or imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief," Nauert said. "We recognize that several designated countries are working to improve their respect for religious freedom; we welcome these initiatives and look forward to continued dialogue."


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