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

All News 02:17 December 12, 2018

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 (Yonhap) -- The United States has redesignated North Korea as a violator of religious freedom for the 18th consecutive year, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday.

North Korea is among 10 Countries of Particular Concern for engaging in or tolerating "systematic, ongoing, (and) egregious violations of religious freedom," Pompeo said in a statement.

The designations were made Nov. 28 in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, and subject the nations to further action by the U.S., including economic sanctions.

"In far too many places across the globe, individuals continue to face harassment, arrests, or even death for simply living their lives in accordance with their beliefs. The United States will not stand by as spectators in the face of such oppression," Pompeo said.

He said the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump made religious freedom a top foreign policy priority and launched the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom earlier this year.

The designations are aimed at improving individuals' lives, he said, as he welcomed efforts by several unnamed countries to improve their respect for religious freedom.

The nine countries aside from North Korea are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

Meanwhile, Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan were placed on a Special Watch List. Also, al-Nusra Front, al-Qa'ida on the Arabian peninsula and elsewhere, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Khorasan, and the Taliban were designated as Entities of Particular Concern.

The action adds to pressure on the regime in Pyongyang, with the U.S. sanctioning three North Korean officials Monday over their alleged human rights abuses and censorship.

It's unclear whether the announcements are linked to negotiations to dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons program, which have stalled since a historic summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June.


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