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Congress to discuss North Korea, denuclearization

By Elizabeth Shim
Congress to discuss North Korea, denuclearization
Congress is to hold hearings on North Korea Oct. 20-22, but Pyongyang made it clear on Monday it has no interest in giving up its nuclear weapons program. Photo by Katherine Welles/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Congress is to hold hearings on North Korea and related issues Oct. 20-22, less than a week after the United States and South Korea signed a joint statement on North Korea at the White House.

Members of the Obama Administration, including the State Department's Special Representative for North Korea Policy Sung Kim, and United States Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues Robert King are expected to give detailed explanations about the administration's North Korea policy, Yonhap reported.

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The hearing, "Persistent North Korea Denuclearization and Human Rights Challenge" is to be presided over by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Thursday Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, will hold a hearing on the topic of North Korea's role, if any, in state-sponsored terrorism.

Kim and Hillary Batjer Johnson, the deputy coordinator for Homeland Security in the Bureau of Counterterrorism are expected to provide reports during the second hearing, and both hearings could serve as a preliminary step toward legislation that could raise the pressure on North Korea to denuclearize.

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On Monday, North Korea issued a media statement making it clear Kim Jong Un's regime would never give up its nuclear weapons program. Kim's father, the late Kim Jong Il, restarted the nuclear enrichment program in defiance of the 1994 Agreed Framework that allowed for the freezing and replacement of North Korea's nuclear power plants with more nuclear proliferation resistant light water reactor power plants.

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The announcement in 2002 of the resumption of nuclear enrichment came a year after former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong Il held a historical summit in Pyongyang.

South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported on Tuesday the shifting political climate in Seoul at the time had one high-profile defector making plans to leave South Korea in order to seek asylum in the United States.

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Hwang Jang-yop, a former North Korea Workers' Party secretary, had escaped to Seoul in 1997, and later penned a memoir of his experiences. But in July 2001, according to handwritten letters acquired by the JoongAng, Hwang had begun to seriously consider defecting to the United States and establishing a North Korean government-in-exile, but also feared being exposed by Seoul's spy agency.

Hwang did not defect but instead was found dead in his home in October 2010.

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