Trump Says Kim’s Political Prisoners Are ‘Great Winners’ After Summit
While the talks between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore focused on denuclearisation and peace on the Korean Peninsula, the North Korean leader’s human rights record was also on the agenda.
Mr Kim has been accused of committing a string of human rights abuses, including holding thousands of people in gulags, mass starvation of the North Korean people and countless assassinations of political rivals and family members.
Despite the strong focus on denuclearisation, Mr Trump said he managed to bring up the issue of human rights with the North Korean dictator.
“I believe it is a rough situation over there. No question about it. We did discuss it today strongly,” Mr Trump told a news conference after the meeting in Singapore.
“He wants to do the right thing.” Mr Trump added that he wanted improvement on human rights from the North Korean leader. “I want significant improvement. I want to start that process. Although you cannot finish that process for a while, but you cannot go back,” Mr Trump said.
But the calls for action came amid surprising praise for the leader he had traded insults with over the past 12 months.
“Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough, I don’t say it was nice, he ran it — very few people at that age, you can take one out of 10,000 probably who couldn’t do it.”
But in the past, Mr Trump has been far more critical of Mr Kim’s human rights record, claiming the dictator is leading one of the most brutal regimes in the world. “No-one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the wellbeing of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea,” Mr Trump said during his infamous ‘little rocket man’ speech to the United Nations last year.
“It is responsible for the starvation deaths of millions of North Koreans, and for the imprisonment, torture, killing and oppression of countless more.” Trump: ‘I think I helped them’ In a landmark 2014 report, UN investigators said that 80,000 to 120,000 people were thought to be held in camps in North Korea as political prisoners.
When asked by a reporter if he was betraying the prisoners in North Korea by meeting with Mr Kim and legitimising the government , Mr Trump said: ”I think they are one of the great winners today … that large group of people that you are talking about. I think they will be one of the great winners as a group.”
He added that he believes the negotiations he has initiated should help improve the overall conditions in the isolated country.
Just last week, UN North Korea expert Tomas Ojea Quintana said that making sure that ending the camps was “on the table” in talks with North Korea was vital to the sustained success of any denuclearisation plan. Speaking in Geneva, Mr Ojea Quintana said that avoiding discussing the camps to focus on the nuclear programme would send “the wrong message”.
“I can say that they exist, I have met with people who recently left DPRK and they told me about their fear to be sent to these places. They told me people they know who suddenly disappeared from their townships and were sent to these places,” Mr Ojea Quintana said.
“My call is for an amnesty, a general amnesty that includes these prisoners and it is a concrete call.”