North Korea warns US could 'pay dearly' for human rights criticism

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People bowing as they pay their respects before a statue of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il at Mansu Hill in Pyongyang, on Dec 17, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korea lashed back at the United States for taking issue with its human rights record on Saturday (Dec 21), saying Washington's "verbal abuse" would only aggravate tensions on the Korean Peninsula, state news agency KCNA reported.

The KCNA statement, attributed to a foreign ministry spokesperson, warned that if the United States tried to take issue with the North's system of government by citing human rights problems, it would "pay dearly".

The United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday condemned North Korea's "long-standing and ongoing" violations of human rights in an annual resolution sponsored by dozens of countries including the United States, that Pyongyang's UN envoy rejected.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry statement is its first since US special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, publicly urged Pyongyang on Monday to return to talks. There has been no direct response from North Korea to Biegun's entreaty.

North Korea has conducted a series of weapons tests in recent weeks and some experts say the reclusive state may be preparing for an intercontinental ballistic missile test that could put it back on a path of confrontation with the United States.

North Korea has repeatedly called for the United States to drop its "hostile policy" before more talks, as its self-imposed year-end deadline for denuclearisation negotiations approaches.

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