24 July 2009

N.Korean allies join test protest


China, Russia share Asean's nuke concerns

PHUKET : Russia and China have joined the US in pressuring North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions, following Pyongyang's recent ballistic missile tests.

See no evil: Mrs Clinton and North Korean delegate Pak Kun-gwang ignore each other at the Phuket meeting.

Normally counting themselves as Pyongyang's allies, Russia and China expressed concern about the nuclear missile tests at the Asean Regional Forum yesterday.

The North Korean nuclear issue dominated security issues at talks held to wrap up the week-long meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The ARF urged North Korea to return to the six-party talks to end the regional nuclear threat, but North Korea immediately rejected the call.

The meeting also urged members of the United Nations to implement the UN Security Council's resolution to impose sanctions on North Korea.

The ARF would look at what it could do to promote peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said after the meeting.

Asean diplomatic sources said even Russia and China shared international concern about the issue.

But in a compromising note, China said it hoped sanctions against Pyongyang would not affect North Korean people, and that the six-nation talks could resume, the sources said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said North Korea faced strong international opposition over its missile testing programme.

"There is no place to go for North Korea as they have no friends left," Mrs Clinton said.

"There is a convergence of views that we are prepared to work with North Korea, but that North Korea has to change its behaviour," she said.

But Ri Hung-sik, who led the North Korean delegation at the meeting, said Pyongyang would not return to the negotiating table until the US changed its anti-North Korea attitude.

The six-party talks comprise China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the US.

Earlier, North Korea downgraded its representative attending the ARF from ambassador-at-large Pak Kun-gwang to Mr Ri, who is director-general of the International Organisations Department. It was the third time Pyongyang had sent a low-level representative to the ARF since 2000.

North Korea's insistence its position should be reflected in the ARF statement forced participants to delay issuing it for two hours.

The ARF members also called for joint efforts to fight terrorists and said the July 17 hotel bombings in Jakarta were a reminder terrorism was still a threat to the region.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said in addressing the terrorism problem, people should avoid singling out any country, race, religion or ethnicity.

"If terrorism is associated with religion, it will create animosity," Mr Anifah said.

The meeting also pledged to promote democracy and human rights in Burma, Mr Kasit said.

Burma is under pressure to release National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners to pave the way for national reconciliation before the country holds general elections next year.