WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department said Monday it was “gravely concerned” about human rights in North Korea, including its detention of an estimated 100,000 people in political prison camps, two days after President Donald Trump again praised leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump is seeking a potentially landmark accord with North Korea on ending its nuclear program, with human rights on the backburner during his two summits with Kim.
But in a statement to mark an annual week of advocacy in Washington over North Korea’s rights record, the State Department hailed defectors and other activists who “shine a light on the dire human rights situation” in the totalitarian state.
“We remain gravely concerned and deeply troubled by these abuses,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
“We continue to work with the international community to raise awareness, highlight abuses and violations, enhance access to independent information and promote respect for human rights in North Korea,” she said.
She estimated that 100,000 North Koreans are jailed in political prison camps, including family members of those accused of violations, and said that those who tried to flee “are often tortured or killed” when caught.
Trump on Saturday defended Kim and his own diplomacy as North Korea said that Kim oversaw a test of a rocket and “tactical guided weapons.”
Trump tweeted that Kim knew of the “great economic potential” of North Korea — a prospect dangled by the United States as it looks to make a deal.
“He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!” Trump tweeted.
Trump has repeatedly boasted that his diplomacy has stopped North Korea from testing missiles.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also played down the latest test by saying that the rockets did not cross any international boundary.