North Korea’s warning comes after denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang stalled in early November when North Korea suddenly called off a planned meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
It remains unclear if the human rights issue will derail denuclearization talks.
Ken Gause, director of the International Affairs Group at the Center for Naval Analyses, believes the U.S., by raising North Korea’s human rights record, could disrupt denuclearization talks because Pyongyang sees the issue as undercutting agreements it made with Washington at the Singapore summit in June.
“I think it would be because North Korea sees the agreement at the Singapore summit as one of the agreements — that the objectives, goals that they had — was to improve the U.S.-North Korean relationships, and North Korea sees these actions by the United States undermining that agreement,” Gause said.
John Feffer, director of Foreign Policy in Focus, disagrees. He said the U.S. campaign against North Korea’s human rights violations will not derail denuclearization talks but might “undermine” Trump’s “negotiating position” on the process of denuclearization.
“I don’t think that human rights issues will ultimately derail the talks,” Feffer said. “Ultimately, North Korea is more interested in seeking whether Trump will agree to some kind of mutual process of give and take. That is the major hurdle at this point — the process. The talks will continue to limp along if the process remains murky.”
Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, thinks the Trump administration should delink North Korea’s human rights issues from denuclearization talks in the beginning of the negotiation process, because speaking out against North Korea’s human rights violations might divert diplomatic efforts.
“I think it is appropriate for the administration to speak out on the issue,” Manning said. “But not to link it to denuclearization. If the diplomacy advances, and we begin discussions on U.S.-(North Korea) normalizations, human rights has to be discussed as part of that process.”