North Korea criticized a conference in Washington to be held on Tuesday about Pyongyang’s widespread human rights abuses, saying it will respond "very strongly" as the United States ignored the North's offer to attend the meeting to defend itself. North Korea also said it is not worried even if the country is referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, because it is not guilty.
North Korea called the conference hosted by the nonprofit Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), a think tank based in Washington, D.C., a "hostile act," and asked the U.S. government to "immediately scrap the so-called conference." In December, the U.N General Assembly had urged the U.N. Security Council to consider referring North Korea to the ICC after a U.N. report revealed the country’s wide range of abuses. Following this, the issue was put on the council’s agenda of matters concerning international peace and security.
"We are not worried at all because at every move we can strongly respond to such a move and we are not guilty of any crime," Jang Il Hun, North Korea's U.N. ambassador, told a press conference on Monday, according to Reuters. "We totally reject and categorically deny all those claims."
"We also demanded that in case the conference is enforced as scheduled then we had to participate ... as a party directly concerned," he reportedly said. "I sent a formal request to my counterpart in the State Department and he responded that it's not a U.S. government event. So it means our request was denied."
A U.S. State Department spokesperson reportedly said that the conference was a privately organized event. "The wide range of participants from around the world reflects the international community's continued concern with the dire human rights situation in North Korea," the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Victor Cha, Korea chair at CSIS, reportedly said that no one received any specific invitation from them and that the meeting was open to public, adding that North Korean diplomats at the U.N. require permission from the State Department to travel outside of New York City.
Scheduled speakers at the conference include Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, and Michael Kirby, head of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry into rights abuses in North Korea.
"This event is a futile attempt on the part of the United States and South Korea to give credibility to the Commission of Inquiry report amid increasing skepticism ... the report was based on fabricated forced testimonies," Jang reportedly said.