South Koreans in Pyongyang for high-level talks


SEOUL: South Korea has called for a shift in North Korea's nuclear policy as tension over the Stalinist state's nuclear programme rose to a new high. 

The call was made by Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun, who led a South Korean delegation for inter-Korean ministerial talks in Pyongyang yesterday. 

The three-day talks mark the first high-level contact between the two Koreas since South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun took office in February. 

The two Koreas, still technically at war, have used the ministerial talks as the highest channel of dialogue on reconciliation and economic co-operation. 

But Jeong admitted that aspects of the talks in Pyongyang were complicated by North Korea's reported admission at three-way talks with the United States and China in Beijing last week that it had nuclear weapons. 

He said Seoul would use the inter-Korean talks to confirm the veracity of Pyongyang's alleged claim of its nuclear capability. North Korea has shunned discussions on its nuclear programme at inter-Korean talks in the past. 

 

“Based on the principle that North Korea's nuclear problem must be solved peacefully, we will persuade the North to change its policy,” he said.  

 

Jeong said if North Korea's claim was true, it constituted a serious violation of a 1992 declaration for denuclearising the Korean peninsula. 

Japan's Defence Agency director-general Shigeru Ishiba warned yesterday that the North's remarks were “a big miscalculation.” 

 

“North Korea's most important objective is the maintenance of its regime and socialism,” Ishiba said. – AFP  

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