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Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, called North Korea’s human rights record “abysmal” in testimony last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Mr. Hill is the U.S. envoy to talks over North Korea’s nuclear program.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom said it “welcomes” Mr. Hill’s comments.

“North Korea’s unrelenting violations of human rights, including freedom of thought, conscience and religion, remain a serious regional security threat,” said commission Chairwoman Felice D. Gaer.

“Future negotiations should link progress on other policy concerns with specific and concrete human rights improvements.”

After Mr. Hill’s testimony, the Senate confirmed career diplomat Kathleen Stephens as the new U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail