The United States says it did not offer any rewards to North Korea in return for Pyongyang’s releasing two American detainees last week.
Robert King, the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, made the remarks at the 4th Chaillot Human Rights Forum Thursday in Seoul.
“We did not offer humanitarian assistance to North Korea," said King. "We did not offer deals on anything else to get the release of these American citizens. We don’t do that.”
There has been media speculation that Washington and Pyongyang might have struck a secret deal.
King said the release could be part of Pyongyang’s effort to pursue better relations with Washington.
Americans Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller, freed late last week, had both been sentenced to years of hard labor for alleged crimes against North Korea. They were sent home less than three weeks after the unexpected release of another U.S. prisoner, Jeffrey Fowle.
Also present at the forum was Marzuki Darusman, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the North.
Darusman said a U.N. report published earlier this year played an integral role in pressuring Pyongyang to respond proactively to the international community’s push for improved human rights in North Korea.
The report detailed gross human rights abuses in the North, including enslavement, torture and murder, that it says amount to crimes against humanity.
“I firmly believe that the international community should seize this unique opportunity and momentum to help make a difference in the life of the people in North Korea,” Darusman said.
The Chaillot forum is organized by the Korea Institute for National Unification, Seoul’s state-run institute, and this year’s event drew some 40 experts.
The two-day event is named after Palais de Chaillot in Paris, where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948.
Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.