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US 'Reviewing Options' on N. Korea Over Human Rights Violations

FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) salutes during a Sept. 9, 2013, military parade in Pyongyang.

The United States is “reviewing options” to hold North Korean officials accountable for human rights violations.

“We’re reviewing options related to accountability for North Korean officials responsible for serious human rights violations, which the Commission of Inquiry concluded in many instances may amount to crimes against humanity,” a State Department spokesperson told VOA's Korean Service, in reference to a United Nations panel report on North Korea’s human rights conditions released in February 2014.

The State Department official said Friday the U.S. will work with the international community to press for North Korea “to stop these serious violations, to close its prison camps, to urge greater freedoms for North Koreans and to seek ways to advance accountability for those most responsible.”

The official’s comments come as talks between the U.S. and North Korea over the communist country’s nuclear weapons program are at a standstill. The nuclear talks have been stalled since late 2008. Washington insists Pyongyang show commitment toward denuclearization before it agrees to resume the talks. Pyongyang demands Washington withdraw what it calls hostile policies against the country.

The official said an executive order signed by President Barack Obama earlier this year provides authority for a possible action against those responsible for human rights violations in the North.

“The executive order that the president signed on January 2 provides a wide-reaching new authority and strengthens our existing sanctions program on the DPRK,” the official said.

President Obama took the measure against Pyongyang for its alleged cyberattack on Sony Pictures last November. Under the order, 10 North Korean officials and three government agencies were sanctioned. Washington accused Pyongyang of launching the attack in response to the studio’s release of The Interview, a comedy film that depicted a fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Pyongyang denied involvement in the attack.

Earlier, Sung Kim, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy, warned that Washington could use the executive order to press Pyongyang, saying the measure provides a “framework for addressing the full range of DPRK illicit behavior going forward.”