UN intensifies efforts to bring DPR of Korea back to nuclear talks, envoy says

UN intensifies efforts to bring DPR of Korea back to nuclear talks, envoy says

Maurice Strong
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) withdrawal from six-party talks on its nuclear weapons programme is "a very real bump in the road" and the United Nations is intensifying efforts to secure a resumption of negotiations since the alternative to a peaceful solution is "so horrendous," the top UN envoy on the issue said today.

"The Secretary-General is deeply concerned. He's instructed me to intensify our efforts at supporting the resumption of the six-party process," Kofi Annan's Personal Envoy to the DPRK, Maurice Strong, told a news briefing in New York, noting that economic and other incentives were vital to securing an end to the weapons programme.

"I expect that there will be peaceful resolution because the consequences of not resolving this issue are so horrendous for all parties that that itself provides a strong incentive to overcome the deep-seated distrust and hostility that has been built up over the last 50 years between the parties and particularly between the principal parties, or the most contentious parties – the DPRK and the United States," he said.

The DPRK announced yesterday that it was pulling out of the so-called Beijing process, the six-party talks between itself and the Republic of Korea, China, Japan, the Russian Federation and the United States, stating publicly for the first time that it already has nuclear weapons in a programme the talks seek to end.

Mr. Strong, who was meeting the DPRK's Permanent Representative to the UN later today, said he was not surprised by the weapons claim, which Pyongyang has previously made privately, noting that the talks had not actually been cancelled.

"The DPRK has simply said it is not prepared to continue to participate in them under the conditions that they have described [hostile US statements], but they have not annulled those and I believe that we should regard this not as the end of a negotiating process but as a blip. Difficult yes, an unhappy twist in the road, but nevertheless the road to negotiations still runs through the six-party talks," he stated.

He said very few people close to the situation were surprised at anything but the timing of the weapons claim. "They have not explicitly said in public but they have said in their private discussions with the six parties that they do have nuclear weapons and this has simply been affirmed now more publicly in the statement they made," he added.

"It's a disappointment, yes, that they placed a stress on it. But I remind you again that they have made it clear that they are committed to a peaceful settlement of the problem. They, too want, or at least are committed to a nuclear weapons-free Korean peninsula."

But, he stressed, they insist that their national requirements be met and that some of the restrictions against their full participation in the international economy also be lifted. "The work which the Secretary-General is doing with which he has entrusted me is designed to be fully supportive of the six-party talks, recognizing that you're not going to get a peaceful resolution of the nuclear weapons issue without an economic and energy component," he said.