North Korea says ‘no’ to UN as crisis broker

SEOUL: North Korea rejected yesterday moves to resolve the nuclear crisis through the United Nations, saying the dispute could only be resolved through direct negotiations with the United States. 

The Stalinist state said it would not allow the United States to “internationalise” the dispute, amid a wave of global diplomacy aimed at forging a united stance to harness North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. 

“The DPRK (North Korea) and the US should sit face-to-face to solve the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, as it was authored by the latter,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted First Vice-Foreign Minister Kang Sok-ju as saying in Pyongyang. 

“The internationalisation of the nuclear issue will make the prospect of its settlement more complicated and gloomy.” 

Separate editorials by KCNA and North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun criticised the United States, and especially Secretary of State Colin Powell, for suggesting the UN should help broker an end to the crisis. 

“It fully reveals the shameless nature and wicked intention of the US to internationalise the DPRK’s ‘nuclear issue’ in a bid to brand it as a ‘criminal’ and stifle it at any cost,” the Rodong Sinmun said. 

The reports came just a day before the UN Security Council was to discuss the issue in New York and a day after UN secretary-general Kofi Annan’s special envoy, Maurice Strong, made a four-day visit to Pyongyang to help resolve the crisis. 

South Korea, China, Russia and Japan have also made concerted diplomatic efforts over the past week to help end the crisis, but North Korea’s official comments yesterday appeared to rebuff their moves. 

The comments also signal a tough week for South Korean officials, who hoped to raise the nuclear issue with Pyongyang officials in three separate rounds of talks, the first of which begins today in Kumgang in North Korea. 

As the crisis dragged through its fourth month without any sign of a resolution, Pyongyang also warned yesterday its resolve was still as strong as ever. 

“If the US drives the developments to the extremes, the DPRK will be left with no option but to counter it with the toughest stance,” KCNA said. 

Meanwhile, about 20,000 South Korean Christians held a pro-US rally here yesterday at which a North Korean flag was burned amid demands for North Korea to renounce its nuclear ambitions. 

The conservative Christians floated thousands of green balloons symbolising peace on the Korean peninsula into the sky and waved pro-US banners and flags of the United States, South Korea and the United Nations. 

The rally in front of the City Hall here was considered a counter to a series of near-daily candlelight protests that began in November to mourn the deaths of two schoolgirls run over by a US army vehicle. 

About 600 Christians held a separate anti-Pyongyang rally near the northern border with North Korea, chanting: “We support US military.” 

Resentment towards the United States over the accident in June that killed the girls and the subsequent acquittal by a US court martial of the two soldiers in the vehicle has been stoked by Washington's hard line towards North Korea in the ongoing nuclear crisis. – AFP 

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