Seoul, Tokyo urge Pyongyang for denuclearisation

Saturday, January 15, 2011

SEOUL - South Korea and Japan urged North Korea Saturday to take “specific action” to improve the climate to enable the resumption of six-party talks over the north’s nuclear programme.

The call was made as South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung Hwan met his visiting Japanese counterpart, Seiji Maehara in Seoul during the Tokyo minister’s one-day visit.

“For dialogue with North Korea, the North should demonstrate through specific action its sincere willingness to carry out its own commitment to denuclearisation,” Maehara said.

Maehara’s one-day visit came after he had expressed willingness to hold direct talks with North Korea this year to discuss Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes and past abductions of Japanese nationals. North Korea welcomed the overture.

That move raised some concern that the wrong message was being sent to the provocative regime that shelled a South Korean border island in November and has made ominous threats of nuclear war.

Maehara said Saturday that South Korea, the US and Japan have taken a united stand, demanding the secretive communist state demonstrate a commitment to eliminate its nuclear weapons’ programme and improve relations with Seoul.

He said Japan would continue to back South Korea’s position in the conflict, calling the attacks “unpardonable”.

“It is North Korea that engaged in provocative acts, we cannot agree to talks for talks’ sake and (Pyongyang) is required to take specific action,” Maehara was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency. “That is the position of South Korea, the US and Japan.”

Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have been warm since Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan offered an apology in August for the 1910-45 colonial rule over the peninsula. He also promised to return ancient royal Korean books taken during that period.

Japan is seeking greater security and economic cooperation with South Korea. Its defence minister visited Seoul this week, and efforts are moving toward free-trade negotiations.

A day before Maehara’s visit, US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates was in Seoul and stressed that Washington would make a resumption of the six-party talks conditional on North Korea ending its provocations and living up to its international obligations.

The six-party talks — the two Koreas, plus Japan, the US, China and Russia — were broken off by Pyongyang in April 2009, yet over the past few months the north had several times expressed its willingness in principle to return to the negotiations.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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