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(LEAD) Senator ties envoy appointment to N.K. human rights

All Headlines 03:42 May 02, 2008

(ATTN: ADDS more quotes, N.K. human rights event)
By Lee Dong-min

WASHINGTON, May 1 (Yonhap) -- A senior U.S. senator who refused to endorse Washington's designated envoy to South Korea said Thursday he will continue to oppose the nominee's confirmation until the administration addresses North Korea's human rights issues.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) told Yonhap he would withhold his support "until we can get some human rights movement taking place in the six-party talks, or some clear commitments to deal with the human rights issues which are not being addressed."

He expressed distrust of North Korea, which, according to U.S. intelligence assessments, helped Syria build a secret nuclear reactor.

"I don't trust them at all," the senator said.

The George W. Bush administration nominated career diplomat Kathleen Stephens to be the next ambassador to Seoul. A former Peace Corps volunteer who taught English in Korea, Stephens would be the first female envoy to represent the U.S. in South Korea.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved her nomination last week, but Brownback requested a delay in a floor vote required for confirmation.

Brownback, a staunch human rights advocate, has long decried the oppression of North Koreans by the Pyongyang regime and criticized the Bush administration for not including the issue in its nuclear talks with North Korea.

The U.S. is a member of what is known as the six-party talks that also involve South and North Korea, China, Russia and Japan. Thousands of North Koreans are believed to be hiding throughout China, hoping to resettle elsewhere. But Beijing refuses to recognize them as refugees and often repatriates them to face severe punishment, even execution.

The senator, referring to last week's revelation by the U.S. intelligence community on North Korea-Syria nuclear ties, said North Korea cheated during the Bill Clinton administration by covertly trying to enrich uranium.

"This is on top of what they did during the Clinton administration where we were negotiating no more nuclear weapons and they were building them at the same time," said Brownback.

The senator was a leading speaker at a rally Thursday denouncing China for human rights violations against its own people, North Korean refugees and Tibetans and for aiding the junta in Myanmar (Burma).

Brownback charged that the Chinese government issued directives ordering American hotels to monitor and filter their Internet piping to spy on foreign guests and visitors.

"This is wrong, it's against international conventions, it's certainly against Olympic spirit," said the senator, flanked by North Korean refugees and activists speaking for Tibet and Darfur.

China is "the foremost enabler of human rights abuses around the world," he said, with people around him holding banners reading "China's cruelty kills the Olympic spirit."

Many of the participants were wearing arm bands that said, "Silence is death for North Koreans."

Suzanne Scholte, the organizer of the North Korea Freedom Week this week, said what is going on inside the North is a "holocaust."

"It's a genocide. Millions and millions of people have died in political prisons and because of famine which is targeted by class," she said.


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