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White House official calls S. Korea democracy 'champion' ahead of democracy summit

By Yonhap

Published : March 14, 2024 - 08:49

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Kelly Razzouk, US National Security Council special assistant to the president and senior director for democracy and human rights, speaks during a press briefing at the Foreign Press Center in Washington on Wednesday. (US National Security Council) Kelly Razzouk, US National Security Council special assistant to the president and senior director for democracy and human rights, speaks during a press briefing at the Foreign Press Center in Washington on Wednesday. (US National Security Council)

A White House official on Wednesday highlighted "real value in the symbolic nature" of South Korea hosting the third Summit for Democracy next week, casting the Asian country as a democracy "champion."

Kelly Razzouk, National Security Council senior director for democracy and human rights, made the remarks as Seoul is preparing to host the summit, a US-led initiative to promote solidarity among democracies, from Monday to Wednesday.

"As President Biden said when we convened the first summit in 2021, democracy needs champions globally. So we are so thrilled that South Korea has stepped up as one of those champions to host the third Summit for Democracy," she said at a briefing at the Foreign Press Center.

"We see real value in this symbolic nature of them hosting the summit and bringing together governments, civil society leaders, NGOs, participants from all over the world to come to Seoul and to make pledges to make commitments and to talk about democracy," she added.

Asked whether North Korean human rights issues will also be discussed at the summit or on its sidelines, the official said the US does not see the gathering as a "shaming exercise."

"Obviously, the human rights situation in North Korea is something that we've taken very seriously, and we've spoken out against that many times, but for the summit itself, we haven't viewed the summit as a shaming exercise," she said.

"What we have viewed it as is a place to talk about our affirmative vision for democracy, and to bring together countries from around the world to talk about and to share best practices about democracy promotion and about human rights issues around the world."

Razzouk noted that the summit comes at a "critical moment" as national elections are anticipated in 40 countries, including the United States.

"We are at an inflection point. Globally, 2024 could be one of the most consequential election years in history," she said.

The official touched on South Korea's summit theme, "Democracy for Future Generations," calling it "something we have also sought to emphasize given the critical role that young people play in defending and supporting democracy."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will lead the US delegation to the summit that consists of senior officials from the White House NSC, the State Department and the US Agency for International Development, according to the official.

Washington has decided for the first time to convene a high-level meeting on the topic of the misuse of commercial spyware during the summit, she said.

"The reason we are highlighting this at the summit is because it's both a national security and intelligence threat, but also a threat to democracy," she said.

"The misuse of commercial spyware by governments has eroded democratic values. (It) has also been linked to arbitrary detentions, disappearances extrajudicial killings and transnational repression," she added.

Also at summit, the US plans to announce that several new "like-minded" countries will sign onto a joint statement regarding commercial spyware in a reflection of growing global recognition of the shared challenge posed by the misuse of spyware, according to Maher Bitar, NSC coordinator for intelligence and defense policy. (Yonhap)