The U.S. envoy for North Korean human rights said he will visit North Korea this year for the first time to inspect a jointly run North-South industrial complex that he has criticized for exploiting workers.
Jay Lefkowitz has no plans to visit the capital, Pyongyang, but he indicated a trip there to talk with officials in Kim Jong Il's reclusive regime was a possibility some day.
When asked whether a visit to Pyongyang would allow the United States to exert more pressure for change in the communist-led country, Lefkowitz said, 'I'm not sure. I think that as long as the regime is set on the types of policies that embody it right now, I've got a tough job ahead.'
Lefkowitz's appointment a year ago as special envoy to keep tabs on North Korea's human rights activities angered Kim's government. It was one reason North Korea cited for one of numerous suspensions of six-nation talks on ending its self-described nuclear weapons production program.
North Korea long has been accused of torture, public executions and other atrocities against its people. But the human rights issue has been overshadowed recently by the North's defiant test launch of seven missiles in early July and by worries that Pyongyang might be preparing a test of a nuclear bomb for the first time.