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(LEAD) (Yonhap Interview) Time for Iran-style talks with N. Korea: FM Yun

All News 14:15 January 26, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS photo)
By Lee Chi-dong and Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, Jan. 26 (Yonhap) -- Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said Tuesday regional powers should not sit idle anymore, as North Korea continues to enhance its nuclear capability amid a stalemate in the six-way talks.

He pointed out that it has become more difficult to restart the six-way denuclearization process in the foreseeable future after Pyongyang's fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6.

South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan need to get together first for consultations on a response to the North's latest provocation and a strategy for denuclearization, Yun said.

"It can be a shortcut to the six-party talks," he said in an interview at his office. "Also, I think it's a good time for South Korea, the U.S. and China to have full-fledged discussions. It would serve as a very important coordination mechanism."

He cited the so-called P5+1's negotiations with Iran.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany had a number of their own meetings before talking with Iran. It helped send a strong and unified message to Tehran, conducive to a landmark nuclear deal.

Last week, President Park Geun-hye offered to consider a five-way meeting without North Korea as one of the "creative" methods to revive the long-stalled process of coaxing Pyongyang into abandoning its nuclear program.

The U.S. immediately expressed support for the idea in a statement issued by its embassy in Seoul.

But many question the likelihood of such a five-party event.

As to Park's proposal, China reiterated the need for resuming the six-party talks. As host of the negotiations, Beijing believes it would be counterproductive by antagonizing Pyongyang.

Yun disapproved of the view that China is pitted against South Korea and the U.S. in dealing with the North's nuclear blast.

"It's a matter between North Korea and the international community," he said, adding South Korea and China have built enough mutual trust in recent years for "frank discussions."

The minister voiced hope that Beijing will cooperate in efforts to slap "effective" sanctions on Pyongyang to fundamentally change its "strategic calculations."

"By doing so, (we) can prevent North Korea's fifth and sixth nuclear tests and maintain the authority of the U.N. Security Council," Yun stressed.

Chinese officials are still reviewing a U.S.-authored draft resolution on imposing additional sanctions on the North.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to visit Beijing later this week, which Yun said reflects Washington's will for a strong resolution.

Yun also plans to travel to Russia himself as early as possible in order to solicit Moscow's help.

In tandem with the 15-member council's move to hammer out a resolution, expected to take a few more weeks, the U.S. and other countries are preparing for bilateral sanctions.

The U.S. House of Representatives already passed a related bill. Yun said there is a possibility that it will be altered in the Senate to include broader secondary sanctions against North Korea, similar to those used against Iran.

South Korea is also looking at what it can do, he said.

Meanwhile, Yun was upbeat about South Korea's relations with Iran.

The Park administration has a timetable for the exchange of high-level visits with Iran, he said when asked about when Park will visit the country. South Korea's commerce minister will make a trip to Tehran next month for a meeting on economic and trade issues.

On Japan, the minister said Seoul and Tokyo have secured momentum for improved ties after making a deal on the "comfort women" issue.

"It's important to build trust by faithfully implementing the agreement," he said.

In the December accord, Japan offered an apology for the sexual enslavement of Korean women for its troops during World War II and 10 billion yen (US$8.3 million) in government funds to create a foundation for surviving victims. In return, South Korea agreed to stop taking issue with the wartime atrocity.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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