Lee invites a nuke-free North Korea to 2012 security summitWrapping up a 47-nation nuclear security summit, U.S. President Barack Obama urged North Korea to return to six-party nuclear disarmament talks, warning that international sanctions will continue unless it resumes its place at the negotiating table.
The two-day summit in Washington ended Tuesday as world leaders endorsed Obama’s call to prevent nuclear terrorism with a joint communique. In a clear rebuke to Pyongyang for defying international pressure to end its nuclear arms program, the leaders also agreed to hold a follow-up summit in South Korea in 2012.
President Lee Myung-bak also expressed hopes that the South’s hosting of the summit would help resolve the nuclear crisis on the peninsula, and invited North Korea to join - after foreswearing nuclear weapons.
“If North Korea shows its intention to give up the nuclear arms programs through the six-party talks and returns to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and respects the agreements, we will gladly invite the North to the nuclear summit,” Lee said.
While North Korea’s nuclear programs were not an agenda item for the summit, they received considerable media attention outside the formal event. In a news conference concluding the summit on Tuesday, Washington time, Obama admitted that international sanctions imposed on the North have made little progress. “Sanctions are not a magic wand,” he said. “Unfortunately, nothing in international relations is.”
He said he would continue to urge the North to return to the stalled negotiations. “North Korea has chosen a path of severe isolation that has been extraordinarily damaging to its people, and it is our hope that as pressure builds for North Korea to improve its economic performance, that we’ll see a return to the six-party talks and see a change in their behavior,” Obama said.
The six-party talks were last held in December 2008. The North declared the talks “dead” last summer, condemning United Nations sanctions imposed for its nuclear and missile tests.
“But I do think that the approach that we’ve taken with respect to North Korea makes it more likely for them to alter their behavior than had there been no consequences whatsoever to them testing a nuclear weapon,” Obama said in the news conference.
The 2012 summit in South Korea is also expected to serve as a pressure point on the North and a possible contributing factor to resolving the nuclear crisis on the peninsula. “By successfully hosting the upcoming nuclear security summit, I will do my best for our country to escape from North Korea’s nuclear threats,” Lee said.
Although the summit is focused on preventing nuclear proliferation among nonstate actors such as terrorist groups, a senior Lee administration official said South Korea’s hosting has symbolic significance.
“Leaders of about 50 countries will meet in the South, which is directly threatened by the North’s nuclear programs, and discuss measures to prevent military use of nuclear energy, so it will definitely be a burden on the North,” the official said.
Kim Tae-hyun, professor of global affairs at Chung-Ang University, said more tangible pressure will be put on the North. “It is likely that the leaders will adopt a statement through the 2012 summit to urge the North to give up its nuclear programs and return to the NPT,” he said.
Kim said hosting the summit will boost Korea’s position on the international stage. “Until now, Korea’s diplomacy was focused on the United States and management of the North Korea crisis,” he said. “But the hosting of the summit means that the country’s diplomatic horizon has broadened to the international community in general.”
By Ser Myo-ja [firstname.lastname@example.org]