Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Bush signed the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004

Bush signed the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004,
which is "intended to help promote human rights and
freedom in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."

The law allows the president to provide grants to
private, non-profit groups to support programs promoting
human rights, democracy, rule of law, and the
development of a market economy in North Korea.

Under the law, Washington can spend at least 20 million
dollars a year until 2008 for humanitarian aid to North
Korean citizens and refugees, the bulk of whom go to

The law requires strict monitoring of the aid to ensure
that it is not diverted to the military, and establishes
a special envoy to oversee North Korean human rights

The legislation also paved the way for North Koreans to
seek refugee status in the United States and provides
four millions dollars for expanding American radio
broadcasts into the North to promote democracy and human

The North Korean government reportedly holds about
200,000 political prisoners in camps managed through the
use of forced labor and torture.

More than two million North Koreans are estimated to
have died of starvation since the early 1990s due to
food shortages.

The US Congress had made clear that under the law, human
rights of North Koreans should remain a key concern in
future six-party negotiations to end the Stalinist
state's nuclear weapons drive.

The negotiations involve the United States, the two
Koreas, Russia, China and Japan.

US Secretary of State Colin Powellis scheduled to visit
Japan, China and South Korea from October 23 to 26 to
discuss the possibility of wooing North Korea back to
the negotiating table with its neighbors.

Last month, North Korea refused to return to the talks
after rejecting an aid-for-disarmament plan proposed by
the United States, citing Washington's "hostile" policy
towards it and South Korea's nuclear experiments.

It is also believed Pyongyang wants to await the outcome
of the November 2 US presidential elections.

While Bush backs multilateral talks to resolve the
nuclear crisis in the Korean peninsula, his rival for
the White House Senator John Kerry (news - web sites) is
pushing for bilateral talks with Pyongyang aside from
international diplomacy.

Speaking ahead of Powell's trip, State Department
spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters he did not
expect the United States to sweeten its offer to North

At the last round of talks in June, the United States
offered Pyongyang three months to shut down and seal its
nuclear weapons facilities in return for economic and
diplomatic rewards and multilateral security guarantees.

"I don't anticipate there will be any particular
modification of those proposals in coming months,"
Boucher said. "And it's important for North Korea to be
prepared to deal with them seriously."

He said all the other five parties, including host China
and Russia, allies of North Korea, were prepared to
resume the six-party talks.

Powell would "take the opportunity in public and in
working with our allies to remind people that we have a
significant and comprehensive proposal on the table,"
Boucher said.

He insisted that the upcoming US elections and policy
differences between Bush and Kerry on North Korea were
unlikely to hinder Powell's efforts to revive the
six-party talks.It was in the "national interest" to
revive the negotiations, he said.

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