Thursday, April 27, 2006

And So It Begins

This is huge. We will accept North Korean refugees in America:

The United States said that it would soon begin accepting North Korean refugees fleeing the hardline communist state.

"I believe that we are now in a position to begin to process refugees in a appropriate way, in a safe way without jeopardising (their safety and our security)," said Jay Lefkowitz, the special envoy for human rights in North Korea.

"We will be in a position relatively soon to welcome North Korean refugees in the United States," he told a Congressional hearing.

Lawmakers criticized the administration of President George W. Bush at the hearing for not accepting even a single North Korean refugee 18 months after he signed a law to facilitate their entry into the United States.

The North Korean Human Rights Act was intended to address the human rights situation in North Korea and promote "durable solutions" for refugees.

Lefkowitz said the administration had to overcome bureaucratic hurdles and security concerns to set up an appropriate mechanism to accept the refugees.

In addition, he said, China, with the greatest number of North Korean refugees, "has not been at all cooperative in trying to help us or the UNHCR (the United National High Commissioner for Refugees) to facilitate the movement of these refugees.

My guess is we were using the threat of this step to pressure China to be helpful on squeezing North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons. But China does not want to see North Korea weakened since it is a useful threat to have on their side threatening Japan and America.

So with China continuing their most unhelpful attitude, now we are going to open up the spigot.

This, I think, has the potential to collapse the North Korean regime. Already, despite certain death if they are returned to North Korea, perhaps 300,000 North Korean refugees are in China where they are exploited by locals and under constant threat of being sent back to their deaths because China does not recognize them as refugees.

Once North Koreans realize they can come to America, I think the growing trickle of refugees escaping will grow to a flood that will destroy the North Korean regime. It will be interesting to see when government or military officials join the flow out.

UPDATE: The Weekly Standard posts Jay Lefkowitz's, the president's special envoy for human rights in North Korea, Wall Street Journal op-ed. He writes:

We must let the North Korean people know what the outside world is like. And defectors who escape can play a role.

We must provide refuge to those who flee North Korea and China sends refugees back to Pyongyang in violation of its obligations under international law.

We must not do anything that helps the regime, mistakenly thinking we help the people who suffer under that regime.

Our goal:

The U.S. will strive to give hope to the people of North Korea and to help them claim their inalienable rights. As U.S. President George W. Bush said last November when he went to Asia, "The 21st century will be freedom's century for all Koreans." But the challenge to expand freedom across the entire Korean peninsula is one the U.S. cannot meet on its own. Those around the world who cherish freedom, and especially America's friends in Asia who stand to benefit most from a peaceful and productive peninsula, must also commit themselves to this goal.

Like I wrote, this is big.

UPDATE: Mad Minerva updates her post on this with a link to an article about the first North Koreans to be accepted as refugees by America.

I note that the article says that Lefkowitz told Congress that there are 20,000 to 50,000 refugees in northeast China. Does this mean the 300,000 figure is grossly exagerrated or that many refugees manage to migrate away from the border region? The latter seems unlikely but who knows?

Let the voting with their feet begin!