Two Jewish members of Congress are en route to North Korea for talks
with Kim Jong-Il and a third is heading for Egypt for a meeting with President Hosni Mubarak.
U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), ranking Democrat of the House International Relations Committee, flew to Pyongyang, North Korea, via Beijing on Friday,
Jan. 7, traveling there in advance of another congressional delegation including U.S. Rep.
Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) The latter bipartisan group is headed by U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Penn.).
Lantos issued no statement in advance of the trip, but Engel said the U.S. must find a way to convince
the North Korean leader "to give up his nuclear weapons," adding that the longer North Korea resists doing this, "the greater threat the world faces. The United
States must redouble our efforts to begin more serious negotiations with North Korea.
"I intend to be firm with the North Koreans that it is not in their best interest to keep and develop nuclear weapons," Engel said. "Stockpiling nuclear weapons will not make them safer, but only increase tensions
on the Korean peninsula."
The visit with Egypt's President Mubarak is planned by U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla) who will travel to Cairo with U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot. Their Jan. 11-13 schedule
also includes meetings with Egypt's Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, Foreign Minister Abdoul Gheit and other leading officials.
Wexler said they will discuss bilateral issues as well as "the Middle
Eastern peace process, Egyptian-Israeli relations, Israel's withdrawal from
Gaza, Palestinian elections, Iraq and Iran.
"As one of America's most important allies in the Middle East, Egypt is playing a critical role in facilitating negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians and ensuring a secure and stable Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip," Wexler said.
"I am hopeful that Egypt will take further steps to deepen bilateral relations with Israel, especially given the recent establishment of Egyptian-Israeli-American Qualified Industrial Zones and Cairo's recent decision to deploy security personnel on the border with Gaza to prevent Palestinian smuggling"
—Donald H. Harrison