5 nations’ pressure needed, says MB

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5 nations’ pressure needed, says MB

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Lee Myung-bak

It will be best for South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States to pressure Pyongyang jointly to call off its plan to launch a long-range rocket in April, President Lee Myung-bak said yesterday, adding that the matter will be discussed in bilateral meetings with leaders of the four countries on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit next week in Seoul.

In a joint interview with a group of global media, Lee described his view of North Korea’s new leadership, the upcoming nuclear summit and other regional issues. The JoongAng Ilbo, the International Herald Tribune, The New York Times, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Xinhua News Agency and Itar-Tass News Agency participated in the group interview at the Blue House yesterday morning. Lee also provided written answers to the six media outfits’ questions.

“No matter what the North’s excuse is, the launch is a clear breach of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874,” Lee said. “It is breaking a promise with all the countries around the world.”

Resolution 1874, adopted after the North’s second test in 2009, imposes sanctions to prevent the communist regime from performing any nuclear or ballistic missile tests or other proliferation activities.

The North announced Friday it plans to launch a satellite into orbit aboard a long-range rocket in April, which the international community sees as a disguised test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

It was the first time that Lee discussed the issue with the media.

Lee said the leaders of the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, the participants in the six-party talks to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, shared his concerns and his understanding. Lee said it will be best for South Korea and the four countries to make joint efforts to persuade the North to cancel the planned launch, adding, “It will be good for the North, not just because the five countries asked for it, to call the plan off.”

“The North may see some domestic political gains, but its loss in the international community will be big,” Lee said. “For the sake of the North’s interest, the launch plan must be reconsidered.”
Asked if the South will sanction the North if it follows through with the launch, Lee said the decision will be made after consultation with the international community.

Lee, who has deferred any public judgment on Kim Jong-un’s leadership in North Korea, spoke about his changed view. “There was no opportunity to evaluate the new leader until now,” Lee said. “But suddenly, this [missile launch plan] came, and we need to have an assessment on the North’s new leader.”

He referenced February’s agreement between North Korea and the U.S. on food aid in exchange for a suspension of the uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon.

“Talks with the North began before the death of Kim Jong-il, and the Feb. 29 agreement came between Pyongyang and Washington after his death,” Lee said. “That agreement was in fact meticulously coordinated between Seoul and Washington. We had high expectations, but now we have this happening. Although we cannot say conclusively, this new development will have a great impact on the assessment of the North, particularly in trust.”

Lee said South Korea is open for inter-Korean dialogue as long as the North shows a changed attitude under the new leadership.

In his written statement, Lee said the North Korean nuclear arms programs won’t be an official part of the Nuclear Security Summit, scheduled to take place Monday and Tuesday, but the participating countries of the six-country talks - minus the North - will meet and talk about it.

“The discussions at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit will mainly focus on how to strengthen international coordination in nuclear security and how to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons-grade materials,” Lee said. “In this regard, there will be some impact on North Korea, which is obsessed with producing nuclear materials. The summit will surely have a major effect not only on North Korea but also on the international community as a whole in reminding everyone of the importance and urgency of nuclear security.”

Lee said the primary goal of Seoul’s nuclear summit is to reach an international agreement to reduce plutonium and highly enriched uranium levels.

“The president also reiterated his strong commitment to resolve the forced repatriation of North Korean defectors from China.

“On the issue of North Korean defectors, North Korea should foremost be held responsible for causing [the phenomenon] in the first place before we regard it in terms of a Sino-Korean issue,” he said.

“Korea and China have worked together on this matter, and Korea is planning to discuss the matter with China in a very constructive manner,” he said.


By Ko Jung-ae [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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