Aiding N. Korea's refugees

North Korea will likely be issue Number 1 when President Obama meets with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday. In addition to North Korea's nuclear testing, it is apparently on the verge of a new leader and the country recently convicted two American journalists sentenced them to 12 years in a labor camp.

Former Bush administration deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz has an interesting op-ed in Tuesday's Wall Street Journal that sets the stage for the meeting. Obviously, I doubt that Wolfowitz and Obama agree on many foreign policy fronts, but Wolfowitz lays out the case for addressing North Korea's refugees, which he says is a "purely humanitarian issue."

Wolfowitz writes that the most important factor in helping refugees is developing a partnership with "first asylum" countries and "resettlement" countries.
In the case of North Korea, China is the most significant first asylum country, although small numbers do escape to other countries. South Korea, not the U.S., is the leading country for resettlement. Some have even suggested that all North Korean refugees should go to South Korea. However, a successful international effort requires U.S. leadership, which in turn probably requires a significant U.S. role in resettlement, alongside South Korea.

Wolfowitz describes inaction in recent years and says that it has led to the current refugee crisis - 100,000 to 400,000 live in a "precarious existence" in China. A sustained effort would take a large international effort that would likely have to be led by the U.S.

jeremy.jacobs@thehill.com