WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. human rights official took to a stage with two young North Korean defectors on Wednesday and warned North Korea the United States would step up pressure on the country to end human rights abuses and that perpetrators “cannot hide anymore.”
Tom Malinowski, assistant secretary of state for human rights, said he and Robert King, the State Department’s special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, had been given specific instructions by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Our charge from our boss is to step it up and do more,” he told an audience at the State Department on U.N. Human Rights Day.
Gesturing to a satellite image of a North Korean prison camp, Malinowski said the United States would do everything it could to highlight abuses in North Korea and warned the camp’s commanders and senior North Korean officials, “we see this, we see you, we know who you are and what you are doing ... you cannot hide any more.”
“The message to these individuals is, ‘do not be part of this, because one day there will be change on the Korean Peninsula and we know your names and you do not want to be associated with that.'”
King and Malinowski appeared with North Korean defectors Park Yeonmi and Joseph Kim, who gave harrowing accounts of their lives in North Korea and their escapes from the country.
Park, 21, who now lives in South Korea and Kim, 24, who is now an American citizen studying in New York, made emotional appeals to China to stop sending defectors back to North Korea, saying they faced imprisonment or death.
Malinowski’s warnings came as the United Nations Security Council prepares in coming days to discuss North Korean human rights following a report from a U.N. Commission of Inquiry in February detailing wide-ranging abuses, including systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities.
The U.N. General Assembly committee dealing with human rights passed a resolution last month calling for the Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.
However, diplomats say no Security Council members have yet proposed this and any such move would likely be vetoed by China, likely supported by Russia.
Nevertheless, Malinowski said North Korean human rights would stay on the U.N. Security Council agenda “permanently, until it no longer needs to be there.”
For its part, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry accused the United Nations of ignoring “inhuman torture practiced by the CIA” while focusing too much on Pyongyang’s human rights practices. The comment followed the release Tuesday of a U.S. Senate report on CIA torture techniques following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations