Sec. Rice: Lefkowitz Will Be More Vocal

Jay Lefkowitz (Korea Times photo)It’s the latest suggestion that the Administration is less worried than ever about upsetting Kim Jong Il:

The United States will have its North Korea human rights envoy become more active in coming days to get more international attention on the issue, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday.

“We are going to get him out more,” Rice said at a U.S. House of Representatives International Relations Committee hearing. “We need the rest of the international community to also pay attention to this issue.”

Lefkowitz was appointed to his position nine months after the position was created with the enactment of the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004.  Although I’m convinced that Lefkowitz (who  doesn’t even pretend to be a Korea expert)  personally wants to deal with the issue  more  aggressively, the State Department appears to have some ambivalence about that.

He has since traveled to Asia and talked with officials there, hoping to muster consensus on pressuring a regime known to run gulags, carry out summary executions, and rule through fear and oppression.

One place that didn’t receive Lefkowitz’s efforts well was Seoul.  South Korea’s Foreign Minister, citing a previous engagement,  would not  meet Lefkowitz in Seoul last December.  North Korea’s Minister-at-Large for Southern Affairs (then South Korea’s Unification Minister) Comrade Chung Dong Young, said that Lefkowitz was “not in  the same  league” as  himself and also refused a meeting, sending two low-level aides instead.  Lefkowitz, denied the opportunity to state his case diplomatically, instead did so at a public rally attended by 10,000 people Seoul  at the close of  Freedom House’s North Korean human rights conference in the city.  He then met with President Bush shortly after returning to Washington, and presumably told the President of his inhospitable reception by the Seoul government.   

Secretary Rice also addressed – vaguely –  the unkept promise of refugee asylum:

Rice said the Bush administration was reviewing the situation.  “We are reviewing our policies on refugee, reviewing them with DHS (Department of Homeland Security), reviewing them with the FBI, to see if we can find a way to participate in the refugee activities as well,” the secretary said.

I found this excerpt interesting:

Pyongyang’s human rights issue has been addressed at U.N. human rights commission and at the general assembly through resolutions tabled by the European Union.  But Rice said the EU’s dialogue with North Korea on the matter is “largely moribund.” Talks with the South Korean government on the issue “is not always an easy conversation,” she said.

That’s putting it somewhat mildly.