The U.S. State Department issued the 2020 International Religious Freedom Report on Wednesday, shedding light on the oppression of the freedom of religions in countries including North Korea and China where human right violations have been a perennial issue. U.S. President Joe Biden made it clear the agenda of human fights including the freedom of religions will not be put on the backburner even in the process of trying to resume dialogues with Pyongyang for Washington’s new North Korea policy.
The U.S. Department of State designated North Korea as a Country of Particular Concern again this year, citing the cases of executing, torturing, and arresting North Korea people who pursue religious activities. It was in the 19th consecutive year that the infamous labeling was given to the communist regime. The report said the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights reported 1,411 cases of human rights violations regarding religious freedom in the communist regime including the cases of 126 deaths and 94 missing persons based on the testimonies from North Korean defectors from 2007 to 2019. “’In June, the government demolished the inter-Korean liaison office after defector groups in South Korea sent materials over the border that included Bibles and other Christian materials,” the report confessed.
“The Biden administration is intent on putting human rights issues at the center of our foreign policy,” said Daniel Nadel, the head of the Office of International Religious Freedom, during a briefing on Wednesday, stressing “There is no tradeoff between addressing human rights issues or addressing other matters of national security or bilateral concern.” He also added that “we can do all of these things at once, and in doing so we both demonstrate the importance of our fundamental principles, but we also make better outcomes.”
The Biden administration is looking into ways to resume dialogues with Pyongyang with its newly established North Korea policy. Washington is also briefing the neighboring countries of the Korean Peninsula as well as the allies on the new policy towards the North, with State Secretary Tony Blinken reaching out to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov over a phone call. Such a move from Washington shows its intent to dismiss the potential backlash from the North and bring North Korea back to the negotiation table for denuclearization.