New regime in N. Korea to maintain nuclear ambitions: Seoul official
HONG KONG (Kyodo) -- North Korea's position on its nuclear weapon program is unlikely to change under the new leadership, but the resumption of the six-party talks is much needed to address the issue, a South Korean foreign affairs official said Monday.
Hahn Choong Hee, South Korean spokesman for the biennial Nuclear Security Summit set for Seoul in March, said North Korea has not committed to denuclearization, a condition for Korean peninsula talks mooted by South Korean President Lee Myung Bak toward the North's late leader Kim Jung Il who died last month and was succeeded by his son Jong Un.
The country's nuclear ambition remains unclear, but "I don't think (North Korea) will change drastically their position or insistence on nuclear weapons, but we have to continue to discuss among members of six-party talks what is the best way to handle the North Korean nuclear weapons program," Hahn said at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong.
The six parties are China, Japan, Russia, the United States and South and North Korea, who started meeting in 2003 to broker a deal for denuclearization.
Hahn said nuclear issues regarding North Korea and Iran are not on the agenda of a two-day nuclear security summit in Seoul, but the 50 participating states could use the opportunity to raise those concerns, apart from focusing on nuclear proliferation, security and safety issues.
"The summit itself will give a serious message to North Korea on the importance of denuclearization. The North Korean nuclear issue should be resolved as early as possible and also once and for all," Hahn said.
In addition to occasional missile testing, North Korea is blamed for the sinking of a South Korean warship and the shelling of a South Korean island in 2010, apparently with the aim of gaining negotiation leverage.
The first nuclear security summit was held in 2010 in Washington, and the focus for this year's Seoul summit will be on nuclear security and safety in view of the post-Osama bin Laden era, the Arab Spring-led regional instability and the Fukushima nuclear fiasco.
"Fukushima gave us certain implications from nuclear safety to nuclear security. What if that particular situation, like the malfunction of a pump, or malfunction of the cooling water system and backup electricity could be done by a terrorist (with) malicious intentions? We have to tackle this issue," Hahn said.