- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2009

Korea rights report

The outgoing State Department special envoy for human rights in North Korea recently sent a critical final report to Congress calling for greater efforts to link a halt in North Korean human rights abuses to the stalled six-nation nuclear talks.

The Bush administration envoy, Jay Lefkowitz, submitted the final report Jan. 17. It compares the human rights situation in North Korea to the Nazi genocide against Jews during World War II; the killing fields of Cambodia after the Vietnam War; and massacres such as those that took place during World War II in Poland’s Katyn Forest as well as the 1995 massacre in the Balkans’ Srebrenica during the Bosnian War. Mr. Lefkowitz noted that governments have vowed “that this should never happen again.”

In the report, Mr. Lefkowitz said some critics had urged the United States not to pressure North Korea over the regime’s treatment of the North Korean people because it could upset security policies such as the six-nation talks aimed at getting the North to give up its nuclear weapons.

Click here to read the report. (PDF)

“Some urge us to focus only on the nuclear issue, and that any serious mention of human rights will distract the parties involved from reaching an agreement,” Mr. Lefkowitz said. “But the facts prove just the opposite. Indeed, after a significant lapse in the six-party talks, the North Koreans announced that they were willing to resume discussions only four days after President Bush met in June of 2005 with Kang Chul-Hwan, a prominent North Korean defector. Rather than stopping the progression of security talks, this reinforced for the North Koreans the United States’ commitment to continuing to spotlight the regime’s abuses, and made clear that only by returning to the table would the North Koreans have a chance at international legitimacy.”

Mr. Lefkowitz said the U.S. government should link security and human rights in the same way that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe did in the 1970s under what became known as the Helsinki Accords. The accords inspired a generation of dissidents in the Soviet bloc to oppose the communist dictatorships that eventually were toppled in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Mr. Lefkowitz said human rights discussions about North Korea should become a permanent part of the six-party talks.

“Helping North Koreans achieve freedom is not only a policy consistent with our moral values as a nation — it is also a pragmatic security necessity,” he said.

North Korea is a “regime that threatens the security of the region. It maintains an inordinately large military despite its state of economic ruin.”

Attempts to get comment from the North Korean mission to the United Nations on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Mr. Lefkowitz also said that under legislation creating his post, just 67 North Koreans were able to reach U.S. shores in the past three years, compared to 2,500 that were resettled in South Korea.

Mr. Lefkowitz stated that the Department of Homeland Security uses a “lengthy and cumbersome” review process for each North Korean seeking to come to the United States.

He also criticized U.S. diplomatic posts throughout East Asia for not having “clear instructions regarding the need to receive, advise and, if necessary, shelter North Korean refugees in crisis situations.”

Bill Wright, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, said DHS officials have not seen Mr. Lefkowitz’s report.

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