North Korea has strongly criticized the U.S. following the news that Washington is considering putting Pyongyang back on its list of terrorism sponsors.Although U.S. officials previously claimed that there was insufficient evidence to return North Korea to the list, the fact that the list exists at all is a point of contention for Pyongyang, according to UPI. After a period of tension, relations between North and South Korea have improved recently. Now Pyongyang has warned Seoul that the the U.S. could destabilize reconciliation efforts.
North Korea angered by threat of inclusion on terror list
Working level talks between the North and South are scheduled to take place in the historic village of Panmunjom. An editorital in the state-controlled Rodong Sinmum newspaper warned that the United States would be engaging in “serious provocation” if it put North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terror.
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“The United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism aims to create instability for sovereign nations, it is a criminal document that must be abolished,” North Korea stated.
Pyongyang was originally included on the list after it was implicated in the midair bombing of a Korean Air Flight which left 115 people dead. It was then removed from the list in 2008 after showing its willingness to discuss denuclearization.
Role in Sony Pictures hack inspires U.S. consideration
Now its inclusion is back up for discussion after the 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures. U.S. authorities have blamed Pyongyang for the attack, which leaked blockbuster films before their release date and released sensitive information.
Last month Hillary Batjer Johnson, the deputy coordinator for Homeland Security in the Bureau of Counterterrorism, said that North Korea is classified as “not fully cooperating” with U.S. counter-terrorism initiatives.
For its part North Korea has accused the U.S. of hypocrisy, stating that Washington engages in state-sponsored acts of terror in order to achieve its geopolitical goals. “Iraq, Libya, Syria, the Ukraine are proof…the real state sponsor of terror is none other than the United States,” North Korea said in statement.
North Korea criticizes South ahead of talks
Officials called on the U.S. to halt the propagation of anti-Pyongyang propaganda. North Korea has also reportedly sent its condolences to Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in the wake of the recent terror attacks in the country, a move which Pyongyang says provides evidence of its “principled stand” against terrorism.
In another statement released on Wednesday, North Korea pressed the South to engage in further efforts to improve relations between the two neighbors. The statement lauded Pyongyang’s “positive and practical willingness” to engage in closer ties, while accusing the South of having “not changed” its position since an initial agreement to step back from the brink of renewed conflict on August 25.
The North criticized the presence of the USS Ronald Reagan in the South Korean port of Busan and railed against criticism of Pyongyang’s human rights record. North Korea was angered by the foundation of a United Nations field office dedicated to investigating alleged human rights abuses in North Korea. Pyongyang maintains strict control on information entering and leaving the country, but deserters recount stories of widespread abuses.
International community concerned by North Korea activities
North Korea has long been subject to international economic sanctions due to its continued research into nuclear weapons and missile programs. Allegations of serious human rights abuses, included forced labor and prison camps, are also a huge worry for other world powers.
The European Union has reportedly written a draft resolution concerning North Korea’s human rights record for the United Nations General Assembly. Pyongyang allegedly invited the EU’s Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis to visit the country, but the visit was postponed.Rumors swirled earlier this month that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon would visit North Korea, but the story was denied by UN officials and the trip never happened. However it is thought that Mr. Ban would like to visit the secretive nation before the end of his term next year.
As North Korea continues to grapple with poor economic performance some analysts are optimistic about the prospect of rapprochement between Pyongyang and Seoul. As unpredictable as Kim Jong-un is, he has so far failed to drive economic growth and improve living conditions for ordinary North Koreans.
Although a nuclear deal like the one recently signed with Iran appears to be distinctly unlikely, there is at least some hope that tensions can be defused in the Korean Peninsula. Working-level talks are expected to begin this week, and are seen as a stepping stone to high-level talks between the two neighbors.