President Donald Trump will not discuss North Korea’s human rights violations with Kim Jong Un at their summit on Tuesday, two administration officials told NBC News.
Instead, the officials said that the U.S. delegation will put the subject aside and focus the meeting primarily around negotiating a deal on nuclear weapons.
The decision not to discuss the topic at the meeting has been criticized by activists and experts studying human rights in North Korea.
They believe any deal on nuclear weapons created while the country is still under a totalitarian regime like Kim’s would be impossible to enforce, as any person who might talk about violations of the deal with international nuclear inspectors could be sent to a prison camp.
“As long as you have a society where every scientist, engineer and soldier lives in fear of him and his family being sent to Camp 16, we are never going to get straight answers,” said Joshua Stanton, a veteran who chronicles North Korea’s prison camps.
John Sifton, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, echoed Stanton’s concerns.
“You can’t really have a verifiable nuclear deal with an authoritarian closed government,” he said. “You have to have some transparency, otherwise you won’t be able to verify.”
Former Obama administration officials disagreed with the idea that a deal couldn’t be made without first addressing the country’s human rights violations and said that it is smart to pursue the issue after reaching an agreement.
President Trump arrived in Singapore on Sunday and will be residing at the Shangri-La Hotel for the remainder of his stay. Kim also arrived on Sunday and will stay at the nearby St. Regis Hotel.
The two leaders will meet at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island on Tuesday at 9 a.m. local time to discuss denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It is expected that more than one meeting will be necessary to reach a final deal.
If that is the case, President Trump may offer to host Kim for a second summit at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.