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(LEAD) Defense Minister Han says S. Korea will not cling to meaningless dialogue with North

All News 22:04 June 04, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS headline; UPDATES with more comments in last 7 paras)
By Park Boram

SINGAPORE, June 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has ruled out any dialogue with North Korea until the communist country takes action to give up its nuclear weapons, Defense Minister Han Min-koo said Saturday, calling for concerted international effort to pressure Pyongyang.

South Korea has rebuffed North Korea's proposals for working-level military talks which were issued on May 21 and 24, respectively, following Kim Jong-un's calls for inter-Korean dialogue made during the rare ruling party congress held in early May in Pyongyang.

"North Korea's recent proposal for dialogue in the absence of any statements for denuclearization is a disguised peace proposal that lacks sincerity," Han said in a speech to the Asia Security Summit in Singapore.

"The Republic of Korea will not cling to such meaningless dialogue," the defense minister said.

The policymaker said the dialogue proposals were only intended to thwart the international community's sanctions on North Korea adopted in retaliation of its defiant nuclear test and long-range missile launch earlier this year.

"The dialogue we seek is ... one that is preceded by a strategic decision from North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal and a show by action that it will relinquish its nuclear ambitions," the minister noted.

Han called for the international community's "collective strength" to push for North Korea's denuclearization.

"If North Korea's unpredictable nuclear provocations are not put to an immediate halt, this would shatter humanity's dream of a world without nuclear weapons and spell the end of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime," he said.

Han then pointed out that defense officials present at the annual meeting have shared the understanding that "Without North Korea's denuclearization, there cannot be any genuine change on the Korean Peninsula."

North Korea's continued provocations showed that the country lacks any sincerity in bringing about peace on the Korean Peninsula and "therefore watertight sanctions and pressure on North Korea is needed to denuclearize the country," he quoted foreign defense officials as having said during the summit.

Touching on intensifying U.S.-China rows over China's expanding military presence in the South China Sea, Han said relevant international agreements and norms should be the basis for resolving the issue.

The minister also stressed that the freedom of navigation and overflight should be ensured there.

In two brief interviews with South Korean media later, the minister said South Korea has enormous interest in the South China Sea region, as 90 percent of South Korea's oil imports and 30 percent of its trading goods pass through it.

Still, South Korea has no plan to join the U.S.' naval patrol around the area, he added.

The annual regional summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, brought together some 500 defense and diplomatic officials and experts from 52 countries, including defense ministers from 23 out of all participant nations, to provide a venue for regional security consultation.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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