- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 27, 2005

SEOUL (AP) — North Korea yesterday demanded the United States rescind its recent appointment of a special envoy on human rights in the communist country, warning the position could hurt international efforts to end the North’s nuclear-weapons program.

The demand arose as a Chinese vice foreign minister prepared to travel to North Korea to discuss resuming the six-party nuclear talks.

Washington announced last week that Jay Lefkowitz, a former adviser to President Bush, will be in charge of promoting efforts to “improve the human rights of the long-suffering North Korean people.”

The new post is part of the North Korean Human Rights Act passed by Congress last year. The legislation provides $24 million a year in humanitarian aid for North Koreans, mostly for refugees.

North Korea said the appointment “is an act of bad omen that hurts our generous and flexible efforts to resolve the nuclear problem” and demanded the envoy be “removed immediately.”

“It is an extremely challenging and dangerous act for the U.S. … to take its intention to topple our regime into the stage of detailed action,” the North’s state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary carried by its official Korean Central News Agency.

Human rights conditions in the North have been discussed periodically, but have not been a central issue in the disarmament negotiations.

The fourth round of arms negotiations were suspended earlier this month after 13 days. China, Japan, Russia, the United States and the two Koreas failed to agree on a basic statement of principles to guide future discussions.

The six parties have agreed to resume meetings this week, but have not yet set a day.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei was scheduled to travel yesterday to North Korea from Japan, where he has been discussing the talks with his Japanese counterparts, a duty officer at the Chinese Foreign Ministry said when reached by phone. She declined to give her name.

The official Xinhua news agency also reported the planned visit, saying that Mr. Wu would “exchange views on bilateral relations and the six-party talks.”

Mr. Wu, Beijing’s top negotiator for the talks, said on Thursday in Japan that the next round could start on Saturday.

But the North said yesterday moves to “chill” efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff had prompted it “to think otherwise.” It did not elaborate.

On Wednesday, North Korea condemned annual joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States as “provocative war maneuvers.”

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