US special envoy on North Korea to visit Tokyo, Seoul

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TOKYO (Reuters) – The U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights issues, Julie Turner, will travel to Tokyo and Seoul from Monday, the State Department said.

On the visit through Feb. 22, Turner will meet with government officials, activists and North Korean defectors, the department said in a news release on its website on Friday.

“Special Envoy Turner’s trip will underscore the U.S. commitment to promoting human rights in North Korea, increasing access to uncensored information within the closed country, and empowering survivor voices advocating for concrete change,” the release said.

Turner assumed the post in July last year, after it had been vacant since 2017, with the United States focusing more on bringing North Korea to the negotiating table over its nuclear programme during the period the posting was unfilled.

President Joe Biden, however, had vowed on taking office that human rights would be at the centre of his foreign policy.

Pyongyang denounced Turner – a Korean speaker and former director of the State Department’s Office of East Asia and the Pacific in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor – as “wicked” and “mudslinging” after she was appointed.

(Reporting by Kevin Buckland in Tokyo; Editing by William Mallard and Tom Hogue)

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