US, North Korea officials in Singapore

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will travel to North Korea for discussion on its nuclear programme and bilateral cooperation. He will next visit South Korea tomorrow.

Talks between high-ranking officials of the United States and North Korea are expected to be held in Singapore today.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s de facto Chief of Staff, Kim Chang Son has reached Singapore and is scheduled to meet American officials to discuss the planned summit between US President Donald Trump and Mr Kim.

Human rights abuses in North Korea, including violations of religious freedom, are a “matter of discussion” ahead of a summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a senior official said on Monday.

While the United States has long criticized Pyongyang for rights abuses, a possible meeting in Singapore on June 12 would be the first opportunity for a sitting US president to directly raise the issue with the North Korean leader.

“This is a matter of discussion,” Sam Brownback, US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, said to reporters at an event to mark the release of the US State Department’s 2017 International Religious Freedom Report.

The report, which also referred to attacks by the Myanmar government against the Rohingya Muslim minority, documents abuses in 200 countries and territories.

“You’ve got a gulag system operating in North Korea, and it’s been a terrible situation for … many years,” said Brownback, adding that North Korea had long been designated as a “Country of Particular Concern” in the religious freedom report.

Asked whether he expected the issue to be raised in the talks with Pyongyang, Brownback said: “I think they’re raising all of these issues.”

While talks are expected to focus mainly on North Korea’s denuclearization and its security, the United Nations and other groups have urged the United States not to neglect human rights.

The report accused North Korea of dealing “harshly” with people who engaged in almost any religious practice, through executions, torture, beatings, and arrests. It said an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 prisoners, some imprisoned for religious reasons, were believed to be held in a political prison camp system in remote areas “under horrific conditions.” Media agencies

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