U.S. sending North Korean rights chief to Asia

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department said it was sending a North Korean human rights envoy on a tour of Asia to assess humanitarian issues in the region.

Robert King, special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, heads to the region Monday for a 10-day visit.


U.S. lawmakers have said they were concerned North Korean human rights issues may be sidelined because of concerns over North Korea's nuclear development program. The State Department said Tuesday the envoy will travel to China Monday to meet officials in Beijing as well as World Food Program officials.

A quarterly report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said millions of North Koreans require some form of food assistance. WFP this week said 20 percent of the children in North Korea are malnourished.

Heavy rains and flooding destroyed farmland in North Korea, though the Yonhap news agency in South Korea this week said the food crisis was less severe than anticipated.

North Korea risked much of its foreign food assistance as a result of its defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning its nuclear weapons program. North Korea conducted a nuclear test in February, its third.


King heads to South Korea for meetings Aug. 22 and wraps up his trip with a Tokyo visit Aug. 28.

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