North says nuke talks off the table

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North says nuke talks off the table


Diplomats gather for a United Nations Security Council meeting on Monday to address North Korea’s recent rocket launch at the United Nations headquarters in New York City. The Security Council condemned the launch of a long-range rocket on April 5. The entire 15-member council said it would tighten sanctions against Pyongyang. [AFP]

Responding to the United Nations Security Council’s presidential statement condemning its recent rocket launch, North Korea announced yesterday that it will resume its nuclear weapons program and will never again take part in the six-party denuclearization talks.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement through the state-run Korean Central News Agency “flatly rejecting” the UN statement, which was unanimously adopted at a meeting earlier yesterday, Korean time.

The Security Council presidential statement called the April 5 North Korean rocket launch a violation of a Security Council resolution banning ballistic missile activities and demanded that the North not conduct any further launches.

The statement also called for the early resumption of the six-party denuclearization talks.

North Korea said the UN took an “unjust action only infringing upon the sovereignty” of the country, adding that it would strengthen its “nuclear deterrent for self-defense in every way.”

“[North Korea] will take the measure for restoring to their original state the nuclear facilities which had been disabled under the agreement of the six-party talks and putting their operation on a normal track and fully reprocess the spent fuel rods churned out from the pilot atomic power plant as part of it,” according to the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s English-language statement, as posted by Reuters.

North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test in 2006, began slowly disabling its nuclear plant at Yongbyon in 2007 as part of a deal reached during the six-party talks. In exchange, the North received aid.

The North said yesterday there is “no need” to hold six-party talks.

“Now that the six-party talks have turned into a platform for infringing upon the sovereignty of the DPRK [North Korea’s formal name] and seeking to force the DPRK to disarm itself and bring down the system in it,” the statement continued, “the DPRK will never participate in the talks any longer nor it will be bound to any agreement of the six-party talks.”

The six-party talks, also involving South Korea, the United States, Russia, China and Japan, began in 2003, aimed at nuclear disarmament in the North. There have been six rounds of discussions so far.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it had no immediate official comment on the statement from the North. But a high-ranking ministry official, requesting anonymity, said the North Korean statement was “more aggressive than expected” but the government was taking a “wait-and-see” approach.

Elsewhere, the Russian RIA Novosti news agency quoted an anonymous Russian Foreign Ministry official as saying, “We can only regret North Korea’s decision and call on it not to halt six-party talks on the nuclear problems on the Korean Peninsula.”

Japan and China reacted to the North’s announcement in slightly different tones. Takeo Kawamura, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, said, “We strongly urge North Korea to return to the six-party talks.”

China’s Foreign Ministry said it hoped the six-party talks would continue but did not specifically mention North Korea.

“The Chinese side hopes all sides will ... continue to advance and push forward the six-party talks and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” said Jiang Yu, the ministry spokeswoman, who also asked for restraint.

“We hope relevant parties can ... show calmness and restraint so as to work together to safeguard the process of the six-party talks,” Jiang said.

At the UN Security Council, the presidential statement was adopted early yesterday, Korean time, with the support of all 15 members. It is the UN’s first official response to the North Korean April 5 rocket launch.

The statement was drafted last weekend, pending the council’s approval. Yesterday, council members quickly agreed to adopt the measure without altering the wording of the draft.

The statement said that the launch was in “contravention of Security Council Resolution 1718,” referring to the resolution adopted after the North’s nuclear test in 2006, which imposed sanctions and banned ballistic missile activities. The statement also said that North Korea “must comply fully with its obligations” under the resolution.

“The Security Council demands that the DPRK not conduct any further launch,” the statement read.

The statement is not legally binding and is thus weaker than a resolution pursued by the United States and Japan. China and Russia, two of five permanent Council members with veto power, had opposed a resolution.

Claude Heller, UN ambassador from Mexico, the current Council president, called the statement “a positive compromise” that sends “a very strong, clear, message that shows the unity of the Security Council on this very important matter.”

Both Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, and Yukio Takasu, Rice’s Japanese counterpart, said the statement sent a strong and unanimous message.

Vitaly Churkin, the Russian UN ambassador, gave “most of the credit” for the consensus to the United States and China.

Chinese ambassador to the UN, Zhang Yesui, explained that China was against a new resolution because it wanted a “cautious and proportionate” response from the council.

“What is important is for all the parties concerned to keep calm and restrained and work together for maintaining peace and stability in northeast Asia,” Zhang said.

The Blue House in Seoul said the Security Council statement carried “great significance.”

“Some members of the Security Council had been passive, but ultimately the Council acknowledged that [the North’s launch] violated Resolution 1718,” said Blue House spokesman Lee Dong-kwan. “We urge North Korea to ponder this unified response from the international community and try to become a mature partner in the global community.”

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it “welcomes and supports” the statement and added it was “appropriate” for the statement to condemn the North Korean rocket launch and demand the North not conduct more launches.

“North Korea must stop taking provocative actions that hinder the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia and must fully abide by the Security Council resolution,” said ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young.

Also, the Foreign Ministry is scheduled to announce South Korea’s participation in the Proliferation Security Initiative, a U.S.-led multinational effort to restrict trade in weapons of mass destruction. The ministry said Monday it had informed the South’s allies of its intention to join the PSI.

Through a White House statement, U.S. President Barack Obama said he was satisfied with the council’s decision. “The president welcomes today’s clear and united message by the United Nations Security Council,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. “The international community is united in demanding that North Korea abandon its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, and that it refrain from further provocations.”

Under the terms of the statement, a sanctions committee on North Korea, chaired by Turkey, is to provide the Security Council by April 24 with the list of entities and goods subject to sanctions.

If the committee doesn’t take action by then, the Security Council will compile the list by April 30.

A high-ranking Foreign Ministry official in South Korea said the South had been in consultation with the United States and Japan to formulate the list.

By Yoo Jee-ho []

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