U.S. human rights envoy to visit S Korea, Japan

13:46, January 08, 2010      

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The Obama administration said Thursday that it will send a special envoy to South Korea and Japan for coordinating human rights issues related to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Robert King, U.S. special envoy for human rights issues related to the DPRK, will visit South Korea on Jan. 11-14 and Japan on Jan. 15, said U.S. State Department, adding that the trip will be King's first visit to Asia since his appointment were confirmed by the Senate in November 2009.

According to the department, King will meet with South Korean and Japanese government officials, as well as DPRK defectors, family members of abductees, and non-governmental organizations. Analysts said one of the trip's aims was to ease tensions between Tokyo and Pyongyang.

The DPRK has admitted kidnapping 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s. It has returned five victims and declared the row settled. But Japan insisted the DPRK was hiding survivors and had abducted more people than it acknowledged.

The Obama administration has been trying to persuade the DPRK to return to the stalled six-party talks, which is considered by Washington as an important and viable mechanism to push the process of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

The DPRK shut down the Yongbyon nuclear facilities in 2007 under a six-nation nuclear disarmament deal. However, Pyongyang quit the multilateral talks in April 2009 in protest of the UN condemnation of its long-range rocket launch.

It conducted an underground nuclear test in May and declared it was in the final phase of an experimental, highly enriched uranium program -- another way to make an atomic bomb.

However, tensions began to be eased recently after the DPRK expressed willingness to return to the six-party talks if it has satisfactory talks with Washington. The six-party talks also involve the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

Source: Xinhua
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