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(LEAD) FM vows to push for five-party talks on N. Korea

All News 22:25 January 22, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with Cheong Wa Dae briefing on five-party talks in paras 8-11)

SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se vowed Friday to push for a meeting of five regional powers that would pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program in the wake of its fourth nuclear test.

President Park Geun-hye proposed the meeting earlier in the day, saying there needs to be a "creative approach" to denuclearizing the North after its latest detonation on Jan. 6.

South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia are members of the six-party talks on North Korea's denuclearization, but the negotiations have been suspended for more than seven years. While the five countries excluding North Korea have met in twos or threes, Beijing and Moscow have shunned a group meeting over concerns it may provoke Pyongyang.

From now on, Yun said he plans to "more actively consider" a five-way meeting together with the relevant countries.

"If this is realized, I believe it will send a very real and symbolically strong message to the North," he said during a press conference following a meeting with Park. The meeting centered on the government's foreign affairs, national security and unification policies for the coming year.

The minister noted Iran's case, saying Tehran abandoned its nuclear program in the face of a consistent and clear message from the P5+1 -- the six world powers involved in nuclear negotiations with Iran.

"Of course, it's early to predict at this stage how each country will respond, but diplomacy in the end is an art of the possible, which makes difficult things possible," he said.

Speaking of the proposal, Cheong Wa Dae said Seoul intends to put as much pressure as possible on North Korea by increasing coordination among the five negotiating partners.

"The five parties have so far urged North Korea come to the six-party talks with sincerity on denuclearization," presidential spokesman Jeong Yeon-guk said in a press statement.

"But it is hard to expect any progress in six-party talks as North Korea showed in action that it has no intention to denuclearize itself by conducting the fourth nuclear test despite repeated warnings from the international community as well as it has fully rejected denuclearization talks," the spokesman said.

The government will seek greater coordination among the five countries excluding North Korea through the proposed five-party talks so they can better persuade the communist country to abandon its nuclear program, he stressed.

Some pundits opposed the proposal.

Cheong Seong-chang, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute, called it a failed and worn approach used by the George W. Bush and Lee Myung-bak administrations in the past.

Park has only widened the gap with China and Russia by proposing a method they dislike, he claimed, at a time when their cooperation is essential in drawing a strong sanctions resolution from the U.N. Security Council to punish the North.

"If the methods of the past have been completely ineffective, the South Korean government must seriously consider a completely new approach to toppling North Korea's nuclear superiority over the South through nuclear armament," he said.


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