American criticism a slur campaign

North Korea rejected U.S. concern about religious freedom in the communist country, calling American criticism a slur campaign.

In an annual report March 5, the U.S. State Department named North Korea as a country of concern for religious persecution, along with China, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar and Sudan.

Telling Washington to "mind its own business," North Korea's foreign news outlet KCNA said Monday that U.S. censure was meant to "stifle and isolate" North Korea. It accused the United States of oppressing Muslims.

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 used to pressure governments to end religious persecution.