Pressure on Pyongyang, Yangon


PHNOM PENH: The United States led pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear drive and Myanmar to embrace democratic reforms during high-level talks at Asia-Pacific's top security forum yesterday. 

While China cautioned that Pyongyang's “security” concerns cannot be brushed off lightly, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Washington would not compromise on its demand for multilateral talks to break the impasse. 

Powell urged South-East Asian nations to join the United States in pressing North Korea to agree to multilateral talks on ending its nuclear weapons programmes, a senior State Department official said. 

“With respect to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction ... no issue is of greater urgency to us than North Korea's nuclear weapons programme,” Powell said, according to the official. 

“Asean's help in keeping pressure on North Korea is absolutely necessary if we are to achieve the goal that all of us seek: a diplomatic solution that leaves the peninsula, the region and the world safer,” the official quoted him as saying. 

Powell told the Asean Regional Forum the United States would not give in to Pyongyang's insistence on a bilateral dialogue. 

“There is nothing the North Koreans can say to us that we will not share with our partners,” Powell said. 

“There is no proposal that will come from us without the concurrence of our partners. There is, therefore, no need for a bilateral dialogue.” 

However, North Korea rejected outright the idea of multilateral talks yesterday, saying it was part of US strategy to crush the regime, according to a foreign ministry statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.  

“It has become clear that the US insistence on multilateral talks is not to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully but to camouflage its act of isolating and stifling our country,” a spokesman told the news agency. 

Following initial three-way talks in Beijing in April, the United States is insisting on five-party talks to include China, Japan and South Korea as well as North Korea and the United States for the next round. 

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing appealed to the international community to consider the “security concerns” of North Korea while demanding a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Korean peninsula. 

“We believe, of course, there should be no nuclear arms on the peninsula, it should be nuclear free,” he said at the Asean forum. 

“At the same time of course, the DPRK security concerns should be appropriately addressed,” he said, without elaborating. 

Powell also headed a charge to urge Asean to pressure military-ruled Myanmar after its recent detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and democracy crackdown. 

“This is not a matter of Asean interfering in Burma's (Myanmar) internal affairs,” the official quoted Powell as saying. 

“It is a question of Asean insisting that one of its members heed the deep concerns of its neighbours and the international community,” Powell said. – AFP  

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