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(LEAD) S. Korea to seek global consensus on unification with N. Korea in 2011

All Headlines 15:06 December 29, 2010

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, paras 1-2; REMOVES para 3; ADDS final 8 paras)
By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, Dec. 29 (Yonhap) -- One of South Korea's major foreign policy goals for next year is to form an international consensus on the achievement of peaceful reunification with North Korea, a government report said Wednesday.

In a 2011 policy report to President Lee Myung-bak, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it will work with countries such as the United States, Japan, China and Russia to form a common understanding on reuniting the divided Korean Peninsula.

In August, Lee had laid out a three-step plan to achieve peaceful reunification with North Korea, starting with the creation of a "peace community" based on the North's denuclearization.

The next step would be to create an "economic community" in which the two sides work toward economic integration, while the final stage would unite all Koreans under a collective ideology that guarantees basic rights.

"The plan is to bring up all measures involved in the reunification process, such as gaining the approval of international organizations and determining the responsibilities we will have to bear under international law," said a ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "And if necessary, we will try to secure the support of our allies in advance through consultations with them."

The ministry also aims to focus on expanding ties with the emerging and developing economies of Africa, the Middle East and Central and South America as part of its efforts to achieve a "Global Korea," the report said.

In particular, it will work to arrange official visits to such countries by President Lee and step up diplomatic efforts to help South Korean firms win nuclear power and infrastructure projects there.

Many countries in such regions are also important sources of energy, requiring greater cooperation to secure stable supplies of crude oil and other natural resources, according to the report.

"The strengthening of our diplomacy with developing economies will deserve the most attention next year," the official said.

As South Korea is a key player in international trade and highly dependent on its exports, it will also work to promote free trade by pushing for the ratification of its free trade agreement (FTA) with the U.S. and laying the groundwork for future FTAs with China and Japan, the ministry said.

Other tasks outlined by the ministry include developing the country's strategic cooperative partnerships with China, Japan and Russia, and producing concrete results in its ongoing efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

President Lee said the North's denuclearization should be achieved next year through six-party talks, a remark that immediately raised speculation that Seoul could be softening to the idea of resuming the forum.

The foreign ministry, however, said there was no fundamental change to the government's policy toward Pyongyang.

"(The president) did not say that the nuclear programs should be dismantled next year," Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan told reporters after his meeting with Lee. "He said that he would like to see progress in denuclearizing the North next year."

The six-way forum involves the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, China and Russia and aims to denuclearize the North in return for political and economic benefits to the impoverished nation.

Kim stressed the need to first create the right conditions for resuming the talks on which the negotiating partners have not yet reached a complete agreement.

Pyongyang has in recent months signaled its intention to restart the forum, but Seoul has rejected the offer, urging the North to first apologize for its recent provocative behavior and demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization through concrete actions. Without such steps, Seoul views the talks' resumption as rewarding the North for its belligerent actions, such as the deadly shelling of a South Korean island on Nov. 23.

Kim added, however, that the government is open to having dialogue with the North as long as the right conditions are met.

"We can't force it to happen without a response from the other side. Our government has not closed its doors to dialogue," he said.


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