NKorea: US uses human rights issue to hamper nuclear disarmament

Korean Central News Agency says N. Koreans fully enjoy freedom and rights, calling the US "the kingpin of human rights abuses."

North Korea accused the United States on Monday of using human rights to block progress in a six-nation agreement on eliminating nuclear weapons in the communist country. US President George W. Bush "blustered that he would handle the 'human rights issue' as 'an element for negotiations with North Korea,'" the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, referring to comments made by Bush during his recent visit to Asia. "We categorically dismiss this as a premeditated act of the US to deliberately throw a hurdle in the process of the six-party talks" and avoid implementing key points of a disarmament deal, KCNA said. In the disarmament pact, North Korea pledged to disable its nuclear facilities and fully declare its nuclear programs by the end of last year in exchange for energy aid and political concessions, including its removal from a US terrorism blacklist. In June, North Korea demolished its nuclear reactor's cooling tower and submitted its long-delayed nuclear declaration. But Washington has said it will only remove North Korea from the terror list when it has agreed to a full nuclear verification plan. Bush, in South Korea earlier this month, commented on human rights in North Korea at a news conference with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. "The human rights abuses inside the country still exist and persist," Bush said. KCNA accused the US of raising the human rights issue to shift the blame to North Korea for not removing it from the terror list. "The 'human rights' ruckus again kicked up by the US is a product of its deliberate scheme to deter the six-party talks from making progress and completely scuttle the de-nuclearization process," KCNA said. The deal was concluded last year by China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States, which have engaged in talks since 2003. KCNA also claimed that North Koreans fully enjoy freedom and rights, calling the US "the kingpin of human rights abuses." The report came as South Korea's No. 2 nuclear negotiator, Hwang Joon-kook, met Monday with Sung Kim, the State Department's top Korea expert, to discuss verification and other pending issues in the disarmament process. Hwang declined to elaborate.