A North Korean parliamentary committee on Friday sent a rare letter of protest to the U.S. House of Representatives, complaining about a proposed new package of tougher sanctions.
The sanctions were condemned as a “heinous act against humanity” by the foreign affairs committee of the North’s Supreme People’s Assembly, according to a state media report.
It was not immediately clear how the protest was conveyed — if it was sent by mail or how it was addressed — because North Korea and the United States have no diplomatic relations and virtually no official channels of communication. The report, carried by the North’s Korean Central News Agency, said the letter was sent Friday.
The Republican-led House overwhelmingly voted May 4 to impose the new sanctions, which target North Korea’s shipping industry and use of what the bill called “slave labor.”
The bill bars ships owned by North Korea or by countries that refuse to comply with U.N. resolutions against it from operating in American waters or docking at U.S. ports. Goods produced by North Korea’s forced labor would be prohibited from entering the United States, according to the legislation.
The Senate would also need to approve the new sanctions before they could be implemented.
It’s not unusual for Pyongyang to condemn Washington’s moves to censure it, but direct protests to Congress are exceptionally rare. Pyongyang normally expresses its displeasure with Washington through statements by the Foreign Ministry or other institutions, or through representatives at its United Nations’ mission in New York.
But he said Friday’s protest was also notable in that it was sent by the recently revived parliamentary foreign affairs committee, which was discontinued by Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, in 1998.
The move to restart the committee has been seen as an attempt to create a “window” for contacts with the outside world — Seoul and Washington in particular.
Pyongyang has had more than its usual share of criticism for Washington in recent months.
It has been in high-indignation mode for the last two months because of military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea that it sees as a prelude to invasion. This year’s war games were the biggest ever, and reportedly included training for precision strikes and assaults intended to take out Kim Jong Un and his top lieutenants.
The North also announced last week that it thwarted what it claims was a CIA-backed attempt to assassinate Kim. On Friday, its Central Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a statement suggesting that the United States and South Korea are harboring suspects and should extradite them to the North immediately.
At the same time, however, a senior North Korean Foreign Ministry official reportedly flew to Oslo, Norway, to meet with former U.S. diplomats and scholars in what is known as “track 2" talks on bilateral issues. The talks, which are held intermittently, are an informal opportunity for the two sides to exchange opinions and concerns.
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