As a week of talks came to a close Thursday, North Korea dealt a tongue lashing to Asean members and their regional partners, while Burma’s foreign minister said pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi would remain in detention.
Foreign ministers from Asian and Pacific countries declared Wednesday that they wanted North Korea to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency and to reverse its decision to pull out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
North Korea said in a statement Thursday the calls had been “forcibly adopted” and reflected “the unilateral view of the US regarding the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula.”
US Secretary of State Colin Powell attended the Asean Regional Forum Wednesday and pushed for the North to return to talks over its nuclear weapons program. Members of the forum adopted their stance in what the Japanese called a message that the North is isolated in its pursuit of a nuclear arsenal.
“It is the US’ hostile policy and nuclear threat against the DPRK that created the nuclear issue and compelled the DPRK to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of the Nuclear Weapons,” North Korea’s Thursday statement said, using the initials for the North’s official name. “The US has designated the DPRK as part of an ‘axis of evil’ and a target of [a] nuclear preemptive strike, and adopted it as its national policy.”
On Wednesday, North Korea referred for the first time to its nuclear weapon program.
Japan and South Korea urged throughout the week that they be included in multilateral talks with China, the US and North Korea. Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said Thursday China was committed to continuing its pursuit of peaceful negotiations for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
“For this goal, China has been working pretty hard,” Li said.
The North’s admonishment of the ARF holds little promise for such talks.
“The DPRK delegation to the ARF Ministerial Meeting solemnly declares once again that it never recognizes the Korean paragraph in the chairman’s statement, which was adopted forcibly under the US pressure despite the opposition of the DPRK delegation,” the statement said. “The ARF must draw a serious lesson from the reality that its goal and principles have begun being severely violated at the current ministerial meeting.”
Foreign ministers on Wednesday also called for a “lifting of restrictions” on Suu Kyi, who turned 58 Thursday.
Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung told reporters Thursday that all week he had received criticisms thrown at him “like darts,” but that Suu Kyi would not be released, “not now.”
During the meetings with foreign ministers, “I listened to them very, very carefully, and I noted them very, very carefully,” he said. Concerns over Suu Kyi and the state of democratization in Burma would be taken back to the Burmese junta leadership, he said, “but we need to be very careful in anything [we do].”
“We will try our best to get our country back on the right track,” he said.
The North Korean and Burmese issues emerged as the main focus of four days of talks this week, but ministers also managed to form closer confidences and draft several agreements binding Asean to some of its neighbors.
Asean and Russia announced a joint declaration on a partnership for peace and security Wednesday, which sketches a diplomatic map for greater cooperation between the two. Among some of the broad-sweeping agreements in the declaration were the agreement upon the “central role of the United Nations as the main body for ensuring global peace and security” and the need for “cooperation in responding to the multi-faceted challenges posed by globalization.”
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