Today’s the day. U.S. President Donald Trump is set to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. This is a historic meeting, as Trump will be the first President to sit down with a North Korean leader since the Korean War ended in 1953. We are hopeful that the summit will usher in a new era of peace. But it is critical that our President secure two – not just one – concessions from Kim. Addressing their nuclear program is only a start.
I agree with Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. “It would be a moral and political mistake to confuse North Korea’s arms concessions with any potential change in its character or course.”
That is why, in order to achieve lasting peace in the region, America must demand that North Korea agree to two things . . .
1. Surrender of nuclear weapons
2. Cessation of human rights abuses
To be accepted by the international community, North Korea must do more than disarm. It must dismantle its labor camp system – a corrupt organ of state-sponsored torture that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Once sent to these camps, inmates are subject to starvation, torture, sexual violence, forced abortions, and even murder.
Hatch is right when he says, “That labor camps of any kind continue to exist after the horrors of the previous century is unconscionable. So, too, is the thought that we would normalize relations with North Korea while this prison system is still in place.”
Hatch has introduced a bill that calls for North Korea to release its nearly 100,000 political prisoners and halt arrests made on political and religious grounds. He also calls for the Kim regime to allow outside independent organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to enter the country to treat prisoners and document their experiences.
If the real goal is lasting peace, Kim must understand that deweaponization is not enough. If North Korea intends on being an ally of the United States, it must not only give up its tools of destruction and allow for unfettered examination of its nuclear plants, but it also must work with the United States to build a world of stability. Kim can begin by recognizing the inherent rights and dignity of its own citizens.
We must pray for President Trump as the summit commences. We must pray for the denuclearization of North Korea. But any effort that falls short of addressing their immense human rights violations has fallen short – period.