Roh says Seoul knows the North Koreans best
CANBERRA ― Before a luncheon with Australia’s prime minister, John Howard, a vigorous supporter of a hard line on North Korea, President Roh Moo-hyun yesterday gave a vigorous defense of his administration’s refusal to join in applying pressure on Pyongyang.
He also said that the possibility of clashes between North and South Korea were a more immediate danger to the South than the North’s nuclear weapons.
“Nuclear disarmament and preventing nuclear proliferation are both important,” he said, “but they are actions to prevent dangers in the future. South Korea cannot do something that would lead to present problems to prevent a future danger.”
In a speech before he and Mr. Howard sat down to eat, and referring to urgings from other countries for South Korean cooperation in enforcing shipping sanctions against North Korea, Mr. Roh added, “International society must not urge South Korea to do it.”
He scolded nations who lectured Seoul on its responsibilities in that regard.
“We dare to take pride in that South Korea knows best about North Korea,” he said, and also noted that his country would face the largest amount of damage if work to resolve the North Korean nuclear issues goes awry. Seoul’s opinion, he said, must be “considered and respected very greatly at international community discussions.”
Earlier, at a joint press conference with Mr. Howard after their meeting, Mr. Roh said, “It is not proper to label the South Korean position on the Proliferation Security Initiative to be participating or to be denying it.”
He was referring to a U.S.-led program to intercept international shipments of weapons of mass destruction and missiles. He continued, “South Korea supports PSI in principle, but we are trying to avoid a direct military clash of the two Koreas.”
In turn, Mr. Howard noted that Australia and South Korea have differences about the initiative, but added that those differences did not mean there were strains in bilateral relations between Canberra and Seoul.
The two men also announced a private sector feasibility study on a bilateral free trade agreement. They also signed agreements on social security and protection of migratory birds.
by Park Sung-hee,Chun Su-jin