North Korea's government is angrily rejecting Washington's allegations that the country denies religious freedom to its people.
Pyongyang says the United States has no business preaching to other nations on religious matters, because the mostly Christian nation is bombing Muslims in Afghanistan.
North Korea calls the U.S. State Department report on religious freedom "groundless mudslinging." A dispatch on North Korea's state-run news agency denounces the report as "imprudent and outrageous" and says it tramples on international law.
Last Friday, the U.S. State Department added North Korea to a list of nations that limit religious freedom, because of reports Pyongyang has cracked down on unauthorized religious groups in recent years.
Washington says there are reports of "executions, torture, and imprisonment" of religious figures in North Korea. The authors of the State Department document say they can not confirm the reports, but they say the "collective weight of anecdotal evidence" lends credence to the claims.
The report says North Korea has been especially harsh in dealing those who try to spread their religious faith to other people, or who have ties to overseas evangelical groups.
The State Department report said several other nations - China, Iran, Iraq, Burma, Sudan, and the Taleban rulers of Afghanistan - also deny religious freedom to people in their countries.
The allegations against North Korea come as European diplomats, just returned from Pyongyang, say the reclusive communist state is eager to improve relations with Washington and rival South Korea.
North and South Korea resumed reconciliation talks last month after a six-month freeze that grew out of political bickering between North Korea and South Korea's main ally, the United States. Those talks hit a snag again earlier this month on wrangling over where the two sides should meet to talk.