Six-party talks key to defusing North nukes

by Jun Hongo

SAITAMA — The six-party talks must remain the principal vehicle for defusing North Korea’s nuclear threat, speakers at a U.N. disarmament meeting in Saitama agreed Thursday.

Speaking at the 20th annual U.N. Conference on Disarmament Issues, representatives of member states voiced concern that the standoff over Pyongyang’s refusal to denuclearize may even lead to an increase in other countries pursuing atomic weapons.

Pyongyang’s announcement Tuesday that it is stopping the disabling of its atomic facilities is a “repeated pattern” of provocation that has been ongoing since the 1991 joint declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, said Shin Dong Ik, director general of the South Korean Foreign Ministry’s International Organizations Bureau.

But faced with the latest development, Shin stressed that it was vital to maintain the momentum of the six-party negotiations, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia, to achieve the goal of complete denuclearization.

Pyongyang may retreat to a pattern of provocation again if the six-party talks fail, he said.

“The level of regional security cooperation in Northeast Asia remains low,” the bureaucrat added, calling for a strengthened nonproliferation treaty and tighter export controls on nuclear technologies and materials.

The plenary session for the second day of the conference focused on security and arms control in East Asia, with South Korean and Chinese foreign ministry officials taking the stage.

Kai Chen, director of the Department of Arms Control and Disarmament at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, acknowledged that setbacks have taken place in the process and resulted in the halting of the North’s denuclearization.

Chen told the conference that denuclearization will not come easy, as it will “take time to build trust and understanding among states.” There will be difficulties and complexities such as Pyongyang’s announcement Tuesday, he said.