North Korea rejects new UN rights envoy as an American ‘puppet’

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North Korea on Friday called the new United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in the country a “puppet” of the United States and slammed the expert’s inaugural statement on the hardships faced by North Koreans.

“We had already made clear our principled stand that we neither recognise nor deal with any ‘special rapporteur’ who is merely a puppet of the US,” an unnamed spokesperson from North Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement, according to state news agency KCNA.

The statement comes as Elizabeth Salmon, the UN special rapporteur on the North’s human rights, is making her first visit to South Korea this week to meet officials, activists and North Korean defectors since her appointment last month.

Ms Salmon said North Koreans were facing “new and more serious hardships” after the hermit kingdom rolled out severe pandemic-related restrictions. The suffering of its 26 million people was compounded as they were already facing decades-long abuses, Ms Salmon said, urging that these should not be neglected.

Ms Salmon called for “more decisively mobilised” international solidarity on human rights in North Korea, which will protect civilians.

However, Pyongyang delivered a sharp rebuttal to the UN special rapporteur and said that it will not put up with a “plot” led by the US to overthrow the country’s political system “in the garb of human rights issues”.

The North accused the UN diplomat of displaying “ignorance and biased vision” and slammed the official for making “unpardonable reckless remarks encroaching upon our inviolable system and sovereign rights” in Seoul.

“We know well that the US deeply stretches out its tentacles on [her] back,” the North’s statement added, accusing Washington of using Ms Salmon.

It added: “The ‘human rights’ racket of the US and other hostile forces has nothing to do with the guarantee of true human rights and is nothing but the most politicised hostile means for tarnishing the dignified image of [North Korea].”

“[North Korea] will never pardon the US and its vassal forces’ ‘human rights’ racket ... which is aimed at overthrowing its social system,” the spokesperson added.

Pyongyang has said it will never recognise or deal with any special rapporteur appointed by the UN to assess the human rights issue in the Korean nation.

Ms Salmon’s predecessors were never allowed access to North Korea. Experts have said that this obstruction by North Korea has prevented external efforts made to find independent information on human rights abuses in the country.

Additional reporting by agencies