[EDITORIALS]U.S. policy in questionA controversy has erupted over whether the United States ignored the request for asylum by the family of Kim Han-mi, who was arrested in the Japanese Consulate in Shenyang by the Chinese police. Suzanne Scholte, the president of the Defense Forum Foundation, a private American organization, said Thursday in Washington, D.C., that she had faxed a statement seeking asylum by Kim Han-mi's family to Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary of state for global affairs. Ms. Scholte's words are directly contradictory to the U.S. State Department's earlier public explanation that the department never received such a request from the family. And her statement also means that the United States has a double standard when it comes to dealing with defectors from North Korea.
The United States has emphasized human rights as one of its major standards of diplomacy. Washington even intervened in domestic matters of other countries for that reason as well as blockading certain countries. The United States cannot avoid international criticism if it ignores an asylum request after receiving it. We think that the United States was very reluctant to make a precedent regarding North Korean defectors since it can cause a serious conflict with China and bring about a wave of defections from North Korea to the United States.
In fact, North Korean defectors have long become "hot potatoes" among South Korea, the United States, Japan and China. From the perspective of human rights these defectors should be taken care of. But once they are recognized as refugees, it would trigger a massive exodus from North Korea. We can easily imagine what kinds of trouble this would bring to relations between North Korea and China, and to a chain of complicated issues over whether Japan and the United States have to take on defectors.
Kim Han-mi's family tells us that the North Korean defector issue is not just limited to certain countries but has become an international issue. The United States should be diplomatically more active in helping North Korean defectors from the perspective of human rights. The United States cannot be a spectator anymore in the issue of North Korean defectors.