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U.S. Cautious About Appointing Special Envoy on North Korea Human Rights

U.S. Cautious About Appointing Special Envoy on North Korea Human Rights

Posted July. 18, 2005 03:09,   


Speculation is brewing in the Washington diplomatic community that in a surprising move, the White House may appoint a special envoy on human rights in North Korea on July 19, the day when the Conference on North Korean Human Rights will be held by Freedom House, a U.S. human rights group.

The White House has been delaying the appointment. But many suspect that it may announce its nomination on July 18 or 19 to maximize the publicity of the conference. The North Korean Human Rights Act stipulates that the U.S. government shall appoint a special envoy within six months after the passage of the act (October, 2004).

Michael Horowitz, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute said in a telephone interview with the Yonhap News on July 15, “We understand that the White House will appoint a special envoy to coincide with the conference on July 19.” He was involved in writing the North Korean Human Rights Act. He added that Jay Lefkowitz (43), a lawyer and former deputy assistant to the president, was informally designated for the position.

The Department of State appears to be nervous about speculation over the imminent appointment of the special envoy. Because the fourth round of six-party talks, which Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, has painstakingly put together is scheduled for later this month. A source in the Department of State said on July 16, “The U.S. administration is very careful about dealing with every issue prior to the conference on North Korean Human Rights. We don’t know how those who are keen on finding fault with the administration would react to any mistake we may possibly make.”

The Department of State has maintained a similar stance so far. In particular, the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs has reportedly proposed to delay the execution of the human rights budget ($24 million, annually) which was approved by Congress in accordance with the North Korean Human Rights Act. Of course, Congress is responsible for allocating and executing the budget.

The Department of State seems to have gotten its way. Nine months after the passage of the North Korean Human Rights Act, budget money has not been allocated at all except for $2 million set aside for a human rights conference hosted by Freedom House.

But it can not be ruled out that the White House may announce its nomination as the responsibility of nominating the envoy lies with the White House.

In addition, another rumor is that the White House will appoint a high-ranking official from the State Department who has been engaged in labor and human rights issues as the official, rather than the lawyer, Jay Lefkowitz.

Seung-Ryun Kim srkim@donga.com