WASHINGTON, April 27 (UPI) -- A U.S. State Department official said North Koreans linked to human rights abuses will be held responsible in the event that Kim Jong Un's regime collapses.
Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski made the statement as the State Department is leaning toward releasing a full list of North Korean human rights violators, South Korean newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun reported.
The list would include North Korean officials responsible for overseeing political prison camps, executions and other rights abuses. A list of names is being assembled, Malinowski told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.
The senior U.S. official said that it's easy to say Kim is a bad person, and that's something everyone knows.
But the list the senior diplomat has in mind would hold accountable the people below Kim who are involved in regular human rights abuses – especially in the event of a sudden change on the Korean peninsula, such as the collapse of the North Korean government.
A U.S. sanctions bill on North Korea that passed in February includes a clause that can blacklist rights violators.
Secondary sanctions could also follow in the wake of a possible fifth nuclear test.
North Korea is sensitive to international criticism of its human rights record, and earlier in April slammed the United States for releasing a human rights report critical of the regime.
The State Department's 2015 report on human rights practices around the world described North Korea as an "authoritarian state" where citizens do "not have the ability to change their government."
"The government subjected citizens to rigid controls over many aspects of their lives, including denial of the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, movement and worker rights," the report read.
North Korea has called U.S. statements on the country's political prison camps, forced labor and summary executions "outright lies," and has said the United States will be met with "bone-crushing" consequences.