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N. Korea Re-designated by United States for Violating Religious Freedom

06 January 2018

The State Department says that the designation is annually made as a way to encourage other countries to join the U.S. in "upholding high but universal standards".

China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are accused of having "engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom".

Over the summer, the United States said it was withholding $255m in military assistance to Pakistan until the country increased efforts to crack down on internal "terrorist" groups. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. The Trump administration will reportedly announce plans to cut security assistance funds to the country.

Pakistani government has said it is already doing a lot to fight militants and summoned the USA ambassador David Hale to explain a tweet by Trump that said the United States had been foolish in dispensing aid to Islamabad.

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Christians, too, are often discriminated against in Pakistan, in various ways.

The State Department is mandated by this law to designate CPC countries no later than 90 days after it releases its annual International Religious Freedom Report (another legacy of IRFA). "Given the strong stance that President Trump has taken on Pakistan recently, the failure to designate Pakistan as a CPC this year comes as a surprise and disappointment".

"The designations are aimed at improving respect for religious freedom in these countries", she added.

A bipartisan group of six senators, including Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), asked Tillerson in October to make Pakistan a CPC, citing systematic religious oppression.

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"Today we write to express solidarity and support for your courageous efforts to restore your Nation's dignity and put an end to the abuses and deprivation which the people of Iran have suffered", they wrote. "Additionally, provincial textbooks with discriminatory content against minorities remain a significant concern". Royce said Vietnam has regularly violated both religious liberty and other basic human rights and said that it is the United States' responsibility to call out these violations.

"I think this is a reflection of the overall frustration of the United States with Pakistan", the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center director, Bharath Gopalaswamy, told VOA Thursday.

It is interesting and welcome to note that in spite of the USA decision to permanently lift certain sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Sudan that were lifted conditionally by President Obama, Sudan remains (rightfully so) a Country of Particular Concern.

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N. Korea Re-designated by United States for Violating Religious Freedom