By Song Sang-ho
WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. diplomat expressed concerns Tuesday over North Korean detainees in China who are at the risk of torture if repatriated, calling on Beijing to comply with the international principle of non-refoulement.
Jung Pak, deputy special representative for North Korea, made the remarks during a forum on the human rights conditions of the reclusive country, which she described as one of the "most repressive, authoritarian" states in the world.
"As the DPRK gradually reopens its borders, we are particularly concerned about DPRK detainees in China, who are at risk of detention and torture if returned," the official said at the forum hosted by the non-governmental National Endowment for Democracy. DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"We continue to raise this issue with PRC and urge it to uphold its non-refoulement obligations," she added, referring to China by its official name, the People's Republic of China.
Pak reiterated Washington's commitment to addressing the North's rights issues, highlighting that those issues are "deeply intertwined" with the growing security challenge posed by the recalcitrant regime.
"It is the DPRK's domestic repression that allows it to devote such a large share of resources to its weapons program without comment from the population, which continues to suffer from malnutrition and other forms of deprivation," she said.
The official also noted that forced labor and labor exploitation, both domestically and overseas, help generate revenue that sustains a regime in power and enables it to pursue its armament goals.
"We support the cause of North Korean human rights, not just because it is the moral thing to do, but also because we believe it is a critical component of addressing the overall challenge posed by the DPRK," she said.
Pak took a swipe at the North's growing restrictions on the inflow of outside information, stressing Washington's commitment to help advance North Koreans' access to information.
"Access to objective information not only empowers North Koreans to better understand the outside world, but also the ways in which their government's policies have led to widespread poverty and repression," she said.