During a rare appearance before Congress Wednesday, a high-ranking North Korean defector told lawmakers that the U.S. should focus on shaping the flow of information into North Korea and urging China not to repatriate defectors.
The testimony by Thae Yong-ho, a former diplomat working in the the U.K. who defected to South Korea in 2016, comes as President Donald Trump readies to visit Asia for 12 days. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jon-un have exchanged heated words in recent months, as Pyongyang has stepped up its missile tests. Trump has dubbed Kim “Little Rocket Man” and during a speech at the United Nations threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if the U.S. is forced to defend itself or its allies.
Thae, whom North Korea has described as “human scum,” told House lawmakers he grew up more privileged than other North Koreans—he received an elite education in China and was later allowed to live and work abroad. But he still felt like he was living a life of a “modern day slave,” and didn’t want his sons to grow up the same.
Thae also suggested expanding targeted economic sanctions and strengthening the U.S.-South Korea alliance. He urged the U.S. to exhaust all “soft power” options before taking a military route—warning that North Korea is ready to retaliate in response to a pre-emptive strike.
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