SEOUL: South Korean president-elect Roh Moo-hyun yesterday urged the United States to actively engage in talks with North Korea to resolve the nuclear crisis that has been gripping the divided peninsula.
“We should resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through dialogue, and I think it is possible,” Roh said at a meeting of US and European business leaders.
He said that North Korea was fundamentally prepared to open up and reform as it had no other alternative.
Roh said that soon after he had taken office he would go to the US to discuss the North Korean nuclear issue with President George W. Bush. “I want to ask the US to actively engage in dialogue with North Korea.”
He said he would also discuss the issue with Japan, Russia, and the EU and ask them to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear programme.
Roh, who takes office on Feb 25, has pledged to continue the policies of outgoing President Kim Dae-jung. He has also said he was against the use of sanctions to pressure North Korea.
Roh complained about local media reports speculating about a possible US military strike on North Korea.
He said such speculation had a negative influence on South Korea’s business climate. “I don’t think there is a need to worry about the nuclear issue.”
Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said North Korea faced a “major food crisis” as a shortfall in donations forced the United Nations to cut vital rations.
“The humanitarian crisis is very severe and widespread,” said Gerald Bourke, a spokesman for WFP's Beijing office, which oversees operations in North Korea.
WFP normally helps feed 6.4 million of North Korea's 23 million people, but a lack of donations has forced it to halt food aid to some three million beneficiaries, Bourke said.
Many adults and children from the worst-affected families are forced to forage for edible grasses, leaves, acorns and other food sources. – dpa
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