Seoul (AFP): North Korea’s human rights abuses should be dealt with more urgently than its nuclear or missile programmes, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak said Wednesday.
Lee made the comment when he met a group of US lawmakers including Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said presidential spokeswoman Lee Miyon.
“As to the North Korean issue, the human rights issue is no less important than nuclear tests or missile launches,” the president was quoted as saying.
“The issue of human rights for the North Korean people should rather be dealt with more urgently (than tests or launches),” he said.
The US delegation promised that Congress will work more actively to improve the North’s human rights, according to the spokeswoman.
Ros-Lehtinen and five other Congress members arrived in Seoul Tuesday for a four-day visit that includes talks with the president and Unification Minister Yu Woo-Ik as well as a trip to the border with the North.
Ros-Lehtinen has been outspoken against the North, initiating a series of bills aimed at putting it back on a US list of state sponsors of terrorism and improving human rights.
Their visit came amid lingering concern that Pyongyang could carry out a third nuclear test, after it lost face with a failed long-range rocket launch.
On Tuesday it vowed to bolster nuclear deterrent capabilities and take “self-defence” measures as long as the United States continues what it called a hostile policy.
The UN Nations Security Council strongly condemned the April 13 launch as breaching a ban on testing ballistic missile technology, and tightened existing sanctions.
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