U.S. very much focused on human rights conditions in N. Korea: State Dept.
By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 (Yonhap) -- The United States is very much focused on improving human rights conditions in North Korea, a state department spokesperson said Tuesday, calling it a serious challenge.
Ned Price, however, said he had no announcements to make when asked if the U.S. would appoint a special envoy for North Korean human rights, a position that has remained vacant for nearly six years.
"When it comes to human rights in North Korea, of course, it is something that we are deeply concerned with," he said when asked about the issue in a daily press briefing.
"The challenge that is posed by the DPRK's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs are not the only threat that emanates from North Korea ... its abysmal treatment of its own people is something that we are deeply concerned about," the spokesperson added.
DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Price said he had no "personnel announcements to make today" when asked about possible appointment of a special envoy, but insisted the U.S. continues to work on the issue.
"There are people in this building and a number of bureaus, including in our East Asian and Pacific Affairs bureau but also in our Bureau of Democracy, Rights and Labor who are very focused on this," he said.
The department spokesperson reaffirmed the possibility of a North Korean nuclear test when asked.
"It has been our assessment for some time now that the North Koreans are in a position to conduct a nuclear test, which would be their seventh nuclear test, really at any point," Price told the briefing.
He stressed that there will be consequences for the North should it conduct a nuclear test, but also said the U.S. continues to remain open to dialogue with Pyongyang.
"We have sought to send a very clear message that is emanating not only from Washington but from capitals around the world that there will be consequences for a seventh nuclear test," said Price.
"Just as we have been consistently making the point that we harbor no hostile intent towards the DPRK. In fact, we believe that diplomacy remains the best means by which to bring about what is our ultimate objective and that is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," he added.
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