The Trump administration slapped sanctions on three North Korean officials on Monday in response to Pyongyang’s ongoing human rights abuses and censorship, CNN writes. The sanctions announcement comes as President Donald Trump floats the idea of a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The move immediately follows a failed U.S. attempt to hold a UN meeting on Pyongyang’s human rights record, a setback that illustrates the Trump administration’s struggle to maintain international support for its maximum pressure campaign to push North Korea toward denuclearization, CNN adds.
The Treasury Department marked Human Rights Day by sanctioning senior officials in previously targeted government entities of the North Korean regime and the Workers’ Party of Korea, including the Ministry of State Security and the Ministry of Public Security.
“These sanctions demonstrate the United States’ ongoing support for freedom of expression, and opposition to endemic censorship and human rights abuses,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
“The United States has consistently condemned the North Korean regime for its flagrant and egregious abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and this Administration will continue to take action against human rights abusers around the globe,” Mnuchin stated, per USA TODAY.
The Treasury Department added that the fresh sanctions highlight the “reprehensible treatment of those in North Korea” and serve as a reminder of the “brutal treatment” of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died 18 months ago after detention in a North Korean jail.
Trump is planning a second summit with Kim early in 2019, the President and some of his officials have said. National security adviser John Bolton has said the President wants to hold the second summit because the first, in Singapore in June, has yielded no progress.
The Trump administration has downplayed the importance of human rights generally and has been criticized for not giving it higher priority in its talks with North Korea. The President has declared he’s in “love” with Kim, who has been deemed to have committed crimes against humanity, has had family members executed and ordered the assassination of his half-brother using chemical weapons, CNN notes.