SE Asia frets about peninsular tension

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SE Asia frets about peninsular tension

PHNOM PENH - Top diplomats from Southeast Asian nations and regional powers urged yesterday that a peaceful dialogue on the Korean Peninsula should be resumed to ease tension and rebuild confidence amid security jitters over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

“The ministers underlined the importance of peace, security and stability on the Korean Peninsula, and urged concerned parties not to take any further provocative actions,” read the chairman’s statement summing up the results of this week’s Asean Regional Forum (ARF).

“The ministers further reiterated the call for all parties concerned to explore all possibilities to engage in peaceful dialogue which would lead to the creation of an atmosphere of trust and confidence among the concerned parties,” the statement said.

The statement did not mention North Korea by name, but urged “concerned parties to comply with their respective obligations under the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and their commitment.”

Diplomatic efforts to resume the six-party talks have been frozen since April, when North Korea defiantly launched a long-range rocket that failed moments after liftoff.

The ARF is the region’s biggest annual security gathering. Among those attending are the countries in the six-party negotiations to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, which involve the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

Following North Korea’s botched rocket launch in April, South Korean officials have said it would be difficult for the six-party talks to be resumed this year, citing the upcoming presidential elections in both Seoul and Washington.

The North’s failed launch ended a possible deal with the U.S. in which Pyongyang agreed to suspend its nuclear and missile activities in return for food aid from Washington. Such conditions have been considered necessary steps to reopen the six-party talks.

There have been persistent concerns that North Korea may soon conduct a third nuclear test to make up for its failed launch. The North’s previous two rocket launches in 2006 and 2009 were followed by nuclear tests.

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