WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States had a tough message Wednesday for officials running North Korea's notorious network of prison and labor camps: We know who you are, we know what you are doing.
U.S. assistant secretary of state, Tom Malinowski, made the remarks as he shared a stage at the State Department with two young North Korean defectors to mark international human rights day.
A U.N. commission of inquiry has accused the authoritarian government of running political prison camps with up to 120,000 inmates in a report issued in February, alleging crimes against humanity. The commission also warned that leader Kim Jong Un could be held accountable.
Malinowski said the U.N. Security Council will soon discuss the North's human rights situation, amid a push for a referral to the International Criminal Court.
That would mark a notable escalation in the diplomatic pressure on North Korea, but Pyongyang's traditional ally, China, is highly likely to veto any attempt at a referral, meaning a push for justice is unlikely to succeed any time soon.
North Korea's totalitarian government contends it is being politically victimized over human rights at Washington's bidding. It has warned that further action at the world body could prompt it to conduct another nuclear test. It denies it has political prison camps.
Malinowski said North Korea's denial about the camps, "tells me they know at some level that it is wrong and potentially dangerous for them in the future."
He said day-by-day for the next week, the department will post online information it has about the camps. That's intended to send a message to camp commanders and officials "all the way up to the top" that one day the situation will change on the divided Korean Peninsula and that they could be held to account.
"We know who you are, we know what you are doing. You can't hide it," he said.
North Korea does not allow international monitoring of its prisons. Information about the camps comes from defectors and satellite imagery.
Wednesday's posting on the department's website gave basic information about Camp 15, or Yodok, northeast of the capital Pyongyang.
The camp is said to cover 145 square miles (375 square kilometers), ringed by a high barbed wire and electrified fence, and includes a gypsum quarry and a gold mine where inmates are put to work. The camp has a "total control zone" for political prisoners who are never released, and a secluded area reserved specifically for executions, the posting says.
State Department posting about North Korean prison camps: