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“North Korean Human Rights Issue Should Wait Until the Six Party Talks Come to an End”

“North Korean Human Rights Issue Should Wait Until the Six Party Talks Come to an End”

Posted August. 22, 2005 03:11,   


The White House appointment of Jay Lefkowitz, 43, as the special envoy on human rights in North Korea has gave rise to various interpretations as to how the appointment was made.

The appointment was announced on a Friday afternoon, when media attention is relatively light, at President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, rather than at the White House and without the president explaining the background of the appointment, as is usually done.

The New York Times reported on Saturday that the naming took place without much fanfare lest it should negatively affect the six-party talks. This is quite different from back in 2001 when John Danforth, former ambassador to the U.N., was named the special envoy on human rights in Sudan.

Since last year, senior fellow Michael Horowitz at the Hudson Institute, who took part in the legislation of the North Korean Human Rights Act, and others, have insisted that the president should announce the appointment of a special human rights envoy in the White House Rose Garden and praise the appointee to give political weight to the envoy’s activities. The White House has brushed off such demands.

North Korean human rights experts in Washington said the Bush administration seemed to be employing a cautious diversionary tactic, under which, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill would engage in the six-party talks at the forefront while Lefkowitz pressured the North with the human rights issue in the background.

Hill seems likely to mention the human rights issue at the six-party talks but not to the extent that gives the North Korean negotiator grounds to leave the meeting hall.

Lefkowitz will directly report to Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State, on his envoy activities. Christian human rights groups are highly likely to display a “joint operation” with Lefkowitz in the process.

These groups say they have “the president’s ear,” meaning that they are confident in keeping the president interested in the North Korean human rights issue. They consider the Christian connections in Bush’s hometown of Midland, Texas and Lefkowitz as their link to the White House.

Indeed, some observers think that the White House succumbed to Midland Christian pressure when it “took the hard step” of announcing the hitherto delayed special envoy appointment on August 19. Midland recently held a large scale North Korean human rights event, led by a Christian group.

Seung-Ryun Kim srkim@donga.com