WASHINGTON, July 8 (UPI) — Unprecedented sanctions on Kim Jong Un are “just the start” of a bigger U.S. plan to blacklist other North Korean individuals for human rights violations.
Tom Malinowski, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, told South Korean news agency Yonhap the sanctions announcement made Wednesday marks only the beginning of a larger movement to address human rights issues.
“The list is just the start. There are I think many others who could be added to the list. We need to keep on gathering information,” Malinowski said.
The U.S. official’s remarks come two days after the Treasury Department named Kim a human rights offender, placing him alongside less than a dozen North Korean officials for rights abuses. Anyone who conducts trade with Kim would have their U.S. accounts frozen.
North Korea has responded with fiery rhetoric, calling the blacklist an “open declaration of war.”
Pyongyang has also threatened to abort all diplomatic channels with the United States unless the designation is revoked, according to Yonhap.
But North Korea has made similar threats in the past, Malinowski said.
“I think this is the fourth time this year that North Korea has called an action by the U.S. government or the South Korean government a declaration of war. The rhetoric is what we have become used to,” the senior diplomat said. “The effect is to show these [rights abusers]: We know who you are, we know your name, we know what you do, and if things change on the Korean peninsula, there will be a very different future for you if you get involved in these cruel acts.”
In April, Malinowski had said North Koreans linked to human rights abuses will be held responsible in the event that Kim’s regime collapses.