United States President Donald Trump is set to sit down with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in May or June for an unprecedented meeting that could raise hope for millions of suffering people, or it could be just another deceptive ploy by the leader of a truly "satanic" regime, a top human rights activist has warned.
Suzanne Scholte, who chairs the North Korea Freedom Coalition, told The Christian Post in a Tuesday phone interview that she fears Kim is looking to win favorable negotiations and reduce sanctions on his regime, while doing nothing to improve the horrific human rights in the country.
Scholte, who is also founder and president of the Defense Forum Foundation and recipient of the Seoul Peace Prize, described Kim's rule as a "satanic, cult-like regime" that is not to be trusted.
"I am very skeptical," she said about the planned meeting between the U.S. president and Kim.
"Trump talked about this even when he was campaigning, that he would sit down and have a hamburger with the guy. Trump has always been open. That's why he's been such a successful businessman, because he talks to people, and works on ideas," she reminded readers.
Throughout 2017, Kim threatened to send missiles to strike the U.S. territory of Guam, also threatening Hawaii and the U.S. mainland, which caused immense concern in the international community.
The North Korean regime has undergone a drastic change of rhetoric in 2018, however, from allowing its athletes to march under the same flag with South Korea in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in February, to announcing that its nuclear and missile tests have been suspended ahead of the summit with Trump.
Scholte argued that this follows directly North Korean strategies of the past, however.
"They go through this cycle, where they indicate that they are willing to talk, and they draw us into negotiations, and then they don't follow through, and break their promises. They have never kept their word on any agreement," she told CP.
"This is one of the things that gets to the heart of the Juche religion," she added, referring to state ideology that elevates the Kim family to a near God-like status.
"They don't come at this in the same way we do. We think, 'your word is your bond' — they don't. Negotiations are aimed at what they can do to stay in power, and how they can fool us into extracting concessions."
Others, including Professor Andrei Lankov, a North Korean expert from Kookmin University in Seoul, have also warned that the Trump-Kim meeting could be a ploy along the same lines.
"They begin to behave in a highly risky and irrational way, creating an acute sense of crisis," Lankov told CNN.
"When almost everybody is beginning to wonder whether North Koreans are really going to strike, or start a war, or do something, North Korea suddenly suggests negotiations, and then extracts concessions for their willingness to go back to the status quo."
Scholte said that "all of us are hopeful" for a positive outcome, and maintained that "all things are possible with God."
Still, she said that if Kim has actually gone through a true change of heart and really is different, "then he needs to demonstrate that with actions, not words."
The North Korea Freedom Coalition chair said that one of the very first things the regime can do is to release the American prisoners it is holding hostage. Next, it needs to establish family reunions between North and South Koreans, and to implement freedom of movement, allowing people to travel and leave their country, she added.
"I would not sit down and talk with him until some of those things are demonstrated," Scholte advised.
"Stopping the torture and detention of people. Stop persecuting people for religious faith. If they would end that, those would be some signs" of good faith, she listed.
As watchdog groups such as Open Doors USA have explained, Christians are treated worse in North Korea than in any other country on earth, having to practice their faith in total secrecy, or risk being executed or sent to prison camps.
Scholte warned that besides North Korea potentially allowing international inspectors access to verify whether it really is shutting down its nuclear sites, if the human rights aspect is not pushed in negotiations, then "all we are doing is emboldening the regime."
"We have to remember that Kim Jong Un is not going to act in the interest of his people, but only in his ability to maintain power. Everything he has done is about helping himself, and that's what I think he's doing now. He's giving us a lot of false promises," she continued.
"If he's different, if this dictator has changed his spots, then that would be great, but I don't see that. I think it's part of the same scenario."
The activist analyzed that the reason Kim is seemingly willing to hold negotiations is because Trump's hardline stance and the U.N. sanctions have worked, putting the North Korean regime "under incredible pressure."
"I think that's exactly where we want to be, and the last thing we need to do is to relieve that stress and tension. To me, the only resolution is the end of that regime, and the North Korean people being free," she said.
Scholte argued that even if Kim were to agree to stop threatening other nations with weapons of mass destruction, failing to insist on improved human rights in North Korea will only tell him "we're going to let you to continue killing your own people."
"That's what I worry about," she stressed.
A major upcoming event that Scholte is highlighting is the 15th annual North Korea Freedom Week, which will be held in Seoul April 28 to May 5.
As she explains also in a recent op-ed in The Daily Caller, the events will focus not only on prayer, but also on fasting as a method to bring attention to the human rights abuses that continue in the country.
The Defense Forum Foundation president told CP that the theme of the initiative is "the truth will set you free," namely that when the North Korean people understand that Kim is "not a God," then his regime will collapse.
On the frontlines of delivering this information to people inside North Korea are defectors, who are doing radio broadcasts and engaging in various other creative ways to smuggle in information and spread the truth.
"The main focus is to showcase and highlight what the North Korean defectors have done. They are our most underutilized resource for bringing about peaceful change. They are communicating with their family members using brokers and cell phones on the China border," Scholte said, adding that their network reaches hundreds and thousands of people.
Other strategies include the Free North Korea Radio that is broadcast throughout the entire country and available to anyone who has a radio; balloon launches; smuggled USBs and SDs; small laptops; and rice bottles with leaflets and money.
She explained that the methods are proven to be effective, since most of the defectors who are now spreading the truth were themselves reached by the same efforts while living in North Korea.
Scholte called for continued prayers, and said that people are responding and understanding that Kim's dictatorship is "an evil anti-God regime" behind great atrocities that continue to be uncovered.
"We need to bring about the end of the suffering of the people in North Korea," she said.