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Missiles and Toilet Diplomacy Draw Japan Closer To Neighbours
Friday, July 28, 2006 (522 reads)

by Harumi Ozawa

KUALA LUMPUR, July 28, 2006 (AFP) - Efforts to coax North Korea to nuclear talks may fail but officials say Japan scored a bonus from Asia's top security forum -- an improvement in its fraught relations with China and South Korea. Tokyo's ties with its East Asian neigbours have been at a low ebb during the past two years, largely because of rows over their World War II history and territorial disputes. China, invaded by Japan in the last century, has refused meetings wth Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi due to his visits to a shrine which honors 2.5 million Japanese dead including 14 top war criminals.


Rice at Asian Forum Amid NKorea Standoff
Thursday, July 27, 2006 (599 reads)

by Danny Kemp

KUALA LUMPUR, July 27, 2006 (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived for a regional security forum in Malaysia Thursday holding out little hope that North Korea would return to stalled talks on its nuclear weapons. Rice said en route to Kuala Lumpur from a failed Middle East peace conference in Rome that she did not anticipate any resumption here of the six-nation talks that have been on ice since November. Her North Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Paek Nam-Sun, was due here later Thursday, with no indication that he would respond to diplomatic efforts to get the communist country to the negotiating table. "I don't anticipate any six-party talks," she told reporters aboard her plane. Top US nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill said the other five countries involved -- South Korea, Japan, China, the United States and Russia -- were willing to take part but the North was "lost on the way." "We tried to invite the DPRK to come to a six-party meeting and they showed no interest and I think we therefore are unfortunately not going to be able to have any kind of six-party meeting here," Hill told reporters, referring to the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. However, China remained optimistic that its high-profile campaign to bring North Korea back to the meeting table still had a chance of success. "We very much hope that North Korea will participate," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu. North Korea, which has already dominated an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers meeting this week, walked out of the three-year-old talks last year in protest over US financial sanctions. Pyongyang provoked further outrage as well as condemnation by the UN Security Council when it test-fired seven missiles on July 5 that splashed into the Sea of Japan (East Sea). Rice has said that while in Malaysia she would follow up on the North Korea issue with the other participants in the six-way talks. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is also due in Kuala Lumpur along with the European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Police said snipers, sniffer dogs and hundreds of police were in place around the conference venue next to Kuala Lumpur's iconic Petronas towers. The South Korean, Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers joined forces Wednesday and Thursday to breathe life into the nuclear talks, despite underlying bilateral tensions. "The two most important things for us are that North Korea should not take extra measures to worsen the situation and also that the six-way nuclear talks should resume as soon as possible," officials quoted South Korean foreign minister and potential future UN chief Ban Ki-Moon as saying. The Asian powers and the United States have been considering other ways to tackle the issue, although they have disagreed about going ahead without North Korea, with both China and South Korea opposing such a move. US envoy Hill suggested that the talks could be broadened to include other countries, following a South Korean suggestion for multilateral talks also including Malaysia, Australia and Canada. "We are hoping to have a broader discussion on security in Northeast Asia," he said. China, North Korea's major ally, warned late Wednesday it was "seriously concerned" about the situation on the Korean peninsula. Earlier it had said that Friday was pencilled in as a potential date for the talks. Pyongyang dramatically upped the stakes this week, branding Rice a "political imbecile" in retaliation for her description of the missile launches as "completely irresponsible" and "dangerous." Meanwhile the US Secretary of State will face renewed pressure on the Middle East in Asia even as she canvasses support for US positions on North Korea, Myanmar and Iran's nuclear ambitions. Asian ministers have condemned Tuesday's Israeli air strike on a United Nations post in southern Lebanon, which killed four UN observers, and said they would raise the issue with Rice. bur-dk/sls/mc

ASEAN-NKOREA - 07/27/2006 15:32 - AFP
Service: World News (ASI)


Japan, SKorea To Seek North's Return To Talks at ASEAN Forum
Thursday, July 20, 2006 (396 reads)

TOKYO, July 20, 2006 (AFP) - Japan and South Korea agreed Thursday to use a regional security forum next week in Malaysia to push for North Korea's return to six-nation talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear arms. The agreement was reached at a meeting of the chief Japanese and South Korean delegates to the six-nation talks, which have been suspended since November, the Japanese foreign ministry said in a statement. The meeting came amid a recent split between the countries over the North. South Korea, which is reconciling with its communist neighbor, has criticized Japan's drive to punish Pyongyang for its July 5 tests of seven missiles. South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Chun Yung-Woo and Kenichiro Sasae, head of the Japanese ministry's Asian and Oceanian affairs bureau, welcomed a UN Security Council resolution last week condemning the North's tests. They also agreed to use the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) talks in Kuala Lumpur on July 28 to help bring North Korea back to the six-nation talks, the statement said. "The ARF stage will be actively utilised to discuss the future process," it said.

The ARF is a 12-year-old annual forum on security in the Asia-Pacific region that was initiated by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It now involves foreign ministers from 25 countries, including the two Koreas, Japan, the United States, China and Russia -- all members of the six-party nuclear talks. North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-Sun is due to attend the ARF. The six-way Korean nuclear talks have been stalled since November when Washington rejected Pyongyang's demand for the lifting of US sanctions on a Macau bank accused of money-laundering on the North's behalf. Washington and Seoul have showed interest in holding five-nation talks with Tokyo, Beijing and Moscow. Chun told reporters after meeting Sasae that a five-nation formula was "one option that is being considered but the goal at the moment is to hold six-party talks." Sasae said that the ARF would be a "good opportunity to deal with the North Korean problem." "But it is still premature to say whether or not North Korea will return to the six-nation talks," he said. sps/sct/th


Rice To Take Center Stage with Asia Return
Wednesday, July 19, 2006 (374 reads)

WASHINGTON, July 19, 2006 (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will look to make up for lost time next week on her debut at Southeast Asia's top security forum, after dismaying regional leaders last year by staying away. Rice will canvass support for US positions on North Korea, Myanmar and Iran's nuclear programs, as she turns her focus from the Middle East to Asia. She will meet Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministers in Kuala Lumpur on July 27, and join the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) the next day, with counterparts from key players including Japan, Russia, China, and South Korea.    Last year Rice slighted the talks, sending her deputy Robert Zoellick, who has since announced he will step down. It was the first time since 1994 that the US secretary of state had been missing from the gathering, but analysts said her absence did not seriously dent US relations with ASEAN. "I don't think there is permanent damage, (but) if she had skipped it again they would have started look askew at us," said Dana Dillon of the Heritage Foundation think-tank. Dillon said the negative response that Rice spurred last year may have paradoxically improved US ties with the region. "It forced her to re-examine the relationship with Southeast Asia because of the negative response ... it turned out for the better."    Rice hopes to "further the international response to North Korea's missile launches and pursuit of nuclear weapons (and) Iran's nuclear programs," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said last week. She wants Asian allies to tackle the "lack of progress toward real democracy and national reconciliation in Burma (Myanmar)," he said. ARF looks set to break new ground over Myanmar, which Washington vilifies for stifling democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.    US secretaries of state used to turn up at the ARF in finger-wagging mode, chiding ASEAN for shielding Myanmar. Rice's no-show last year was seen in some quarters as a gesture of disappointment at ASEAN's stance on Myanmar, though sources here suggested it had more to do with placating Zoellick, a Bush loyalist and Asia expert deprived of a cabinet post. The US-Myanmar dynamic has changed, even since Rice's visit to South Korea for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum late last year, which saw her rebuke ASEAN for not doing enough to censure Yangon.   

Lately, ASEAN nations have shown signs of frustration with Myanmar. Malaysia's state Bernama news agency Sunday quoted ASEAN secretary general Ong Keng Yong as saying ministers would take a "position" reflecting worries on how the junta tarnished the grouping's credibility. "This issue affects ASEAN's credibility and image," he said. ASEAN's evolution on Myanmar has been noticed in Washington. "Now they have really turned it ... the statement a couple of days ago was really indicative," said Jeremy Woodrum of the US Campaign for Burma. "They have had to make a decision: 'Is our relationship with Burma more important than our relationship with the US or the EU?'" Dillon said Rice must try to harness converging positions to hike pressure on the junta. "We have coordinated our policies with Europe but never with the ASEAN countries," he said.

US prestige in Asia was salvaged when the UN Security Council adopted an unexpectedly robust resolution condeming North Korea's missile tests. Sanctions preventing the Stalinist state from buying or selling missile technology won the backing of China, seen as one of the few states with influence over Pyongyang. Rice said Pyongyang now had "no choice" but to return to stalled six-party talks on a nuclear showdown. The resolution spared her the task of defending the six-party process, which last week appeared riven with divisions. Now she will push ARF, and Japan, China and South Korea in other planned stops during her Asia trip, to take next steps. Following her visit to Malaysia, Rice is due in Vietnam. ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. col/fgf/mc


Seoul Hopes For Inter-Korean Talks on Missile, Nuclear Issues at ARF
Wednesday, July 19, 2006 (407 reads)

 SEOUL, July 19, 2006 (AFP) - South Korea's foreign minister said Wednesday he hopes to meet his North Korean counterpart for talks on the North's missile and nuclear programmes on the sidelines of an Asian security forum next week.    Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, who will attend the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Kuala Lumpur on July 28, said he hopes his North Korean opposite number will attend as planned. “We are in the middle of reaffirming North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-Sun's participation. He had planned to take part but nothing concrete has since been reaffirmed," Ban told a weekly briefing. "We are expecting to have a chance to exchange opinions on inter-Korean ties, missile and other issues, and deliver our position through a bilateral contact there." Ban said he expects tensions over North Korea's July 5 missile tests and nuclear program will be high on the agenda of the regional security forum. "If North Korea's foreign minister comes, the foreign ministers of all of the countries participating in six-way talks would gather at one place," Ban said, in reference to stalled nuclear disarmament talks. "In relation to regional security, we expect a lot of opinions on North Korean missiles to be exchanged at the forum."


  North Korea set off fresh alarm bells with its test-launching of seven missiles in defiance of international appeals. The UN Security Council has unanimously condemned the tests and imposed missile-related sanctions. Pyongyang rejected the UN move and threatened to bolster its defences. The communist state has long been locked in a standoff with the United States and its allies over its nuclear weapons program. Six-nation talks aimed at defusing the nuclear tensions have stalled since November.


  South Korea, which has improved ties with North Korea since a 2000 peace summit, has suspended humanitarian aid including food assistance to its neighbour in protest at the missile tests. But Seoul said it would continue peaceful engagement with Pyongyang. The operation of a South Korean-built industrial park at Kaesong in North Korea would remain unaffected by the UN resolution, Ban said. jkw/sm


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