US, SKorea, Japan agree not to recognize NKorea as a nuclear weapons state

Tuesday, November 7th 2006, 8:46 am
By: News On 6

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ The United States, South Korea and Japan on Tuesday reaffirmed their opposition to treating North Korea as a nuclear state, a position that could complicate upcoming disarmament talks with the reclusive communist nation.

Seoul and Washington also agreed on the need for ``full and effective'' implementation of the U.N. sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for conducting a nuclear test. But the nations made no mention of a U.S. initiative primarily aimed at the North that seeks to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by stopping ships suspected of trafficking.

The U.S. wants South Korea to increase its participation in the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative in light of the North's Oct. 9 nuclear test, but so far Seoul has only sent observers to exercises under the program.

The talks Tuesday included Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, and Robert Joseph, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

``Both parties shared the view that North Korea's nuclear test is a grave threat to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, Northeast Asia and beyond,'' the U.S. and South Korea said in a statement after the talks. ``Both parties reaffirmed the position that North Korea will not be recognized as a nuclear weapon state.''

North Korea agreed last week to end its yearlong boycott of the negotiations that also include China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the U.S. _ the first sign tensions are easing after Pyongyang's nuclear test. No date has been set for the six-nation talks to resume.

Many experts say the prospect of progress at the talks is low because the North is expected to demand bigger concessions as a nuclear power. None of the other parties have said they would recognize the North as a nuclear state.

Meanwhile, there were signs of disagreements between Seoul and Washington on how hard to press the North. South Korea has been struggling to strike a delicate balance between its obligations to punish the North and concerns that aggravating its volatile neighbor could destabilize the region.

``Let me confess that many challenges are ahead of us. We need confidence in our alliance,'' South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said at the start of a meeting with Burns.

Joseph held separate talks Tuesday with Park In-kook, a deputy foreign minister, and later said the meeting focused on the ``importance of full implementation'' of the U.N. sanctions resolution.

``We've had very useful, very productive discussions,'' Joseph said, declining to give further details.

Park said both countries were rushing to meet a Monday deadline to submit reports to the U.N. sanctions committee on how they are implementing the resolution against the North.

The U.S. diplomats also met with South Korea's presidential security adviser, Song Min-soon, and agreed the two countries will hold a ``summit-level'' consultation on the nuclear issue on the sidelines of an upcoming regional economic summit in Vietnam, the presidential office said in a statement. It did not provide details.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said Monday that efforts to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear program should not lead to a fresh conflict on the divided peninsula.

On Tuesday, a leader of South Korea's ruling Uri Party said the country should send an envoy to Pyongyang to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear program.

Kim Han-gill also stressed that major inter-Korean projects _ a tourism venture at a North Korean mountain resort and an industrial complex _ should ``never be halted.'' The U.S. has recently criticized the resort project as a means to funnel money to the North Korean regime.

``It is delusional to think that more peace will be created the stronger the sanctions against the North are,'' he said.

In Tokyo on Monday, the U.S. diplomats agreed with Japanese officials on a meeting of all five dialogue partners of North Korea on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit this month in Vietnam.

The U.S. officials were traveling to Beijing later Tuesday for meetings with Chinese and Russian officials.