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Chris Hill Confirmation Hearing: Hill Takes Up Brownback’s North Korea Criticism

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) takes up Sen. Sam Brownback’s (R-Kans.) criticism that Hill’s tenure as envoy to North Korea should disqualify him from serving as ambassador to Iraq, for allegedly being disinterested in human rights in North Korea. In particular, Brownback feels Hill misled him on working with President George W. Bush’s human rights envoy to the North. Lugar asks for Hill’s response.

“I very much respect Sen. Brownback’s concern about human rights,” he begins. “The North Korea human rights record is one of the worst in the world. There is no question.” He says he anticipated moving from a purely disarmament focus of his diplomacy to something broader, including human rights. “The plan was, in phase 3, to sit down with the North Koreans for talks including normalization.” Human rights would be a component of that — “specifically, we would look at whether, for example, we could give them lists of prisoners of conscience … or help them with their criminal procedures code or things like that.” Hill says in that context, he told Brownback he’d create a human rights track. But the talks never got that far under his watch.

On the human rights envoy, Jay Lefkowitz, Hill clarifies he told Brownback he would invite Lefkowitz to any talks with the North Koreans that didn’t involve nuclear disarmament. “The problem, Senator, was that we were not able to get beyond phase 2,” since “we did not get adequate verification measures” for fuller disarmament. “Therefore, we never got on to having these bilateral talks,” Hill explains. Whether that will satisfy Sen. Brownback remains to be seen.

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