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South Korea wavers on North Korea human rights abuses

Feb. 25 (UPI) — South Korea said it has not reached a final decision on a North Korea human rights resolution at the United Nations, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called out human rights violations of the Kim Jong Un regime.

Seoul foreign ministry spokesman Choi Young-sam said Thursday at a regular press briefing that the government has “made no decisions” on policies that could protect the rights of North Koreans.

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Choi also said Seoul will “continue to communicate as necessary with the international community, and the United States,” News 1 reported.

The official statement comes after South Korea in November decided for the second consecutive year to not co-sponsor a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly denouncing rights abuses in the North.

South Korean avoidance of the issue, which the North has said aggravates inter-Korean relations, comes at a time when foreign policy is changing in Washington.

On Wednesday, Blinken said in remarks to the 46th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council Washington seeks reengagement with the international body.

In 2018, the Trump administration withdrew the United States from the Human Rights Council after U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said it was “an organization that is not worthy of its name.”

“The United States is placing democracy and human rights at the center of our foreign policy,” Blinken said Wednesday. “We encourage the Council to support resolutions at this session addressing issues of concern around the world, including ongoing human rights violations in Syria and North Korea.”

South Korea’s Second Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-moon previously said Seoul maintains deep interest and concern regarding the human rights situation in North Korea but suggested raising rights violations interfered with other objectives.

“Concern of the human rights situation should not hinder us from paying attention to the humanitarian situation in North Korea,” Choi had said before the Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

Last year, Seoul passed a bill that banned launching anti-Pyongyang leaflets at the border, citing resident safety. Defectors said the activism was an important means of delivering information from the outside world into the North.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Choi Young-sam spoke before the U.N. Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

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