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Lord Alton and Baroness Cox return from Pyongyang

Press release dated 7 February


House of Commons logoBritish Parliamentarians Lord David Alton and Baroness Caroline Cox have returned today from a five day visit to North Korea and are calling on the new Obama administration to bring about a formal cessation of hostilities and normalisation of relations with the DPRK.

The parliamentarians expressed deep concerns over human rights, humanitarian and security issues during high level meetings with DPRK government ministers and officials.

However, Lord Alton who is Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea said that ‘the 1950-53 Korean War which claimed up to 3.5 million lives (including 1000 British serviceman), remains unfinished business. The principle combatants are still technically at war and the stand off is the longest running conflict that America has with any other nation. This is the moment to dispense with Asia’s Berlin War. A decade ago Britain established a diplomatic mission in the Pyongyang and it is time for the Americans to do the same. President Obama should now seize the moment. Deteriorating relations between North and South could jeopardise this historic opportunity.’

The parliamentarians pressed the DPRK to grant access to Professor Vittit Muntarbhorn – the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights. He has estimated that 400,000 people have died in the camps in the last 30 years.

Baroness Cox who is vice chairman of the All Party Parliamentary group added, ‘We presented evidence to the DPRK authorities of some of the estimated 200,000 people detained in Soviet style prison camps. In addition 2 million people died here as a result of food shortages in the 1990s and we urge the DPRK to allow greater access for aid agencies to carry out their work – in particular in the areas of capacity building and health care: food should never be used as a weapon of war.’

The parliamentarians also saw some positive developments which justified a Helsinki style approach of constructive critical engagement with Pyongyang – a Helsinki Process with a Korean face. Security concerns and human rights should go hand in hand.


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