As President Donald Trump prepares for a historical meeting with the leader of North Korea, many news outlets and human rights campaigners are asking why the regime’s history of human rights violations will be left out of the discussion.
Trump will meet with Kim Jong Un on Tuesday in Singapore to discuss a more permanent solution for peacekeeping, marking the first time a sitting United States president has met with a North Korean leader.
Trump, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has insisted on nothing less than the denuclearization of Kim’s region as the outcome of talks. This declaration has left many to wonder if the nation’s gross human rights violations, which the U.S. Department of State has deemed among the worst in the world, will be left untouched.
Trump insisted after the G7 Summit that “every issue is going to be raised,” when asked if the issue of gulags with Kim Jong Un would be on the table.
However, the administration has now decided not to bring up such issues, two administration officials reportedly told NBC News.
Experts on each side are grappling with the correct approach.
“We’re talking here about one of the most repressive governments in the world, which the U.N. has found culpable in committing crimes against humanity against its own people — so pushing human rights off the summit table is neither responsible nor ethical,” Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch told Voa News.
Olivia Enos, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, emphasized the uniqueness of Kim’s desire for legitimacy on the world stage, and how that plays into discussions. Currently, she acknowledged, Kim and his regime have faced no punishment for their human rights violations, which makes it even more important that it be questioned at the summit in front of the world.
“If the summit passes by and the Trump administration does not raise the issue of human rights, they will have missed an opportunity” to potentially alleviate the human rights disaster in the long run by not pressuring Kim on this area, Enos told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Other experts argue that the answer is rather simple: Denuclearization of the North Korean peninsula is far more important than any other issue at hand.
“I really think it would be a mistake to overload the agenda,” Joseph Yun, a former United States special representative for North Korea policy, told the Washington Post.
Yun, who secured the release of American hostage Otto Warmbier, said the talks between the two leaders should “concentrate on denuclearization above all else.”
“The administration is not making human rights concessions a part of these negotiations and in fairness, that’s in keeping with decades of U.S. practices and policies where the nuclear threat from North Korea to the United States is prioritized over its awful human rights,” Ken Dilanian, an intelligence and national security reporter for NBC, told MSNBC.
Focusing on a single issue in such consequential nuclear talks between leaders is something former President Barack Obama also juggled, except in regards to Iran.
“The Trump administration gave quite a bit of criticism to the Iran Deal for not including human rights. The Obama administration mostly countered by saying it was a deal that focused on preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Human rights, missile tests, supporting terrorism remained outside the scope for a later date,” Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told TheDCNF.
The difference between the two talks is that North Korea already has nuclear weapons, but the notion to hold other concessions for later bilateral talks mirrors the upcoming dilemma with North Korea. (RELATED: Kim Jong Un Arrives In Singapore For Summit With Trump)
Trump and Kim Jong Un will meet at the Capella Hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa Island at 9 p.m. Eastern time. After that, the two leaders will meet behind closed doors, and later in front of the press.
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