International

N. Korea lashes out at US over human rights ‘racket’

SEOUL: North Korea on Saturday vowed strong action to counter a US attack on its human rights record and issued fresh warnings that the United States was in range of its nuclear weapons.

The threat follows a damning UN inquiry into North Korea’s human rights record, with the judge who led the investigation urging the world body this week to seek war crimes prosecutions for the regime.

Pyongyang said the United States was behind the UN move, with the North’s powerful National Defence Commission (NDC) accusing Washington of resorting to “an unprecedented human rights racket” aimed at destroying its sovereignty.

In September, US Secretary of State John Kerry denounced human rights abuses in North Korea and urged Pyongyang to shut down its penal colonies riddled with “barbarity and inhumanity.”

Washington “will have to pay dearly for this generation after generation”, the NDC said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

“To cope with this, the DPRK (North Korea), too, decided to launch a new tough counter-action of its own style to blow up the stronghold of the violators of ‘human rights’.”

The North’s action would be backed by nuclear and other advanced weapons, the commission said, citing Pyongyang’s earlier threats to place the continental US within the range of its nuclear strikes.

“The DPRK never hides the fact that the declaration of the most powerful new counter-action of its own style is based on a powerful nuclear force built in every way and various ultramodern striking means deployed in the ground, sea, underwater and air,” it said.

Pyongyang’s bellicose rhetoric has included threats of nuclear strikes on the continental US, American bases in the Pacific and even the White House.

But most experts believe it is still a long way from developing a viable intercontinental ballistic missile with the required range.

The North has conducted three nuclear tests, but is not thought to have mastered the miniaturisation techniques necessary for mounting a warhead on a missile.

A UN commission of inquiry into the North’s rights has detailed a wide range of systemic abuses including murder, enslavement and torture.

An angry Pyongyang said the evidence for the inquiry was “fabricated”. -AFP

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