With Kim Jong Un still out of sight, North Korean officials have gone on a publicity blitz — making a rare move to take questions at the United Nations, arranging human rights talks with the European Union, and taking a high-level trip to South Korea.
The overtures come at a time when its human rights record has received increased scrutiny. Pyongyang’s charm offensive has raised questions of what the regime seeks and what could be happening in the country’s inner circle.
Citing over 40 different sanctions against North Korea, Ri Tong Il, the North Korean deputy ambassador to the UN, said: “This is the most brutal sanction throughout the world. No country… has been living under these sanctions. … You can imagine how these obstacles are to the peaceful environment for the people of our country.”
He adamantly defended the country’s human rights record, saying it’s “doing its best to exceed” universal human rights conventions. North Korea had issued a rosy human rights report in September, boasting that it has “the most advantageous” system.
North Korea’s outreach at the U.N., EU and South Korea comes at a time when recommendations from the scathing UN Commission of Inquiry report — for prosecution and more sanctions — are on its way to the U.N. General Assembly.
Another North Korean official had said last week that North Korea is ready to restart nuclear talks.