North Korea blasts US concerns about its religious freedom

North Korea rejected U.S. concerns about religious freedom in the communist country Monday as a slur campaign aimed at isolating Pyongyang.

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department labeled North Korea as a country of concern for religious persecution. Myanmar, China, Iran, Iraq and Sudan were also listed.

Urging Washington to "mind its own business," North Korea's foreign news outlet, KCNA, said the U.S. censure was meant to "stifle and isolate" the country.

It also tried to cite religious rights violations in the United States and accused Washington of oppressing Muslims in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The U.S. assertion is "nothing but sophism intended to invent a pretext for impairing the image of (North Korea's) system and stifle and isolate it at any cost," KCNA said.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the designation "countries of particular concern" is one of the tools the U.S. government uses to address religious persecution and pressure governments that are responsible for it.