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Japanese, South Korean Ministers Discuss North's Nukes

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

SINGAPORE, June 4, 2005 – Korean and Japanese defense ministers today called on North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks aimed at ending North Korea's push for nuclear weapons.

Yoshinori Ohno, the Japanese minister of state for defense, and Yoon Kwang Ung, the Korean minister for national defense, expressed confidence that North Korea will return to the talks. Both agreed that all nations of the region must exert pressure on North Korea, and that the problem with North Korea must be negotiated.

The men spoke at the Shangri-La Dialogue here. The International Institute of Strategic Studies sponsors the annual defense conference.

On Feb. 10, North Korea said that it possessed nuclear weapons. The country had broken away from the agreed framework negotiated in 1994, and had begun uranium enrichment in October 2003. China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the United States worked to negotiate a settlement with the north on nuclear disarmament and weapons proliferation. North Korea walked away from the talks, and the five nations have been trying to get the insular country to return to the discussions.

Ung said the Republic of Korea will not "tolerate a nuclear weapons development program by the North Koreans under any circumstances whatsoever," and that the North Korean nuclear issue "must be peacefully resolved through dialogue."

He said South Korea will continue to use inter-Korean channels to reason with North Korea. He said possession of nuclear weapons will not guarantee regime stability and will worsen North Korea's political and economic isolation.

Ohno said the situation in North Korea is one of the most serious security concerns in Asia. He said the country is developing nuclear weapons and has a track record of missile proliferation. He said there is real frustration in Japan over North Korea's nuclear program and North Korea's kidnapping of Japanese citizens.

"The immediate and unconditional return of North Korea to the Six-Party Talks is of the utmost importance, and is a first step toward North Korea becoming a responsible member of the international community," Ohno said. "The countries concerned will have to make sincere efforts to urge North Korea to open its doors, keep its promises and observe international rules."

Both men said the resolution of the situation is important for the region. Ung said that a peaceful settlement of the North Korean nuclear issue "will not only be a cornerstone for security on the Korean Peninsula, but also another foundation for regional stability and world peace."

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