PostHeaderIcon Asia, US Hold Talks Without Defiant North Korea

Rice told the meeting in Kuala Lumpur that the United States was ready "at any time, at any place and without any conditions" to meet North Korea under a six-nation framework that began three years ago. But North Korea, which left the six-way talks in November and caused further outrage this month when it test fired seven missiles, said it would not return until US financial sanctions against it were dropped. Friday's 10-way dialogue involved North Korea's previous nuclear negotiating partners -- South Korea, China, Japan, the United States and Russia -- along with Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand. The apparent compromise talks followed failed diplomatic efforts to sway North Korea at the ASEAN Regional Forum hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. "We do need to deal with the security problems that are currently bedeviling the region, especially concerns about the nuclear program of the DPRK," Rice said, referring to the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "The launching of seven ballistic missiles on July 4-5 here in Asia that violated the self imposed nuclear moratorium was indeed a dangerous action," she said. North Korea -- which this week branded Rice an "imbecile" -- rejected a UN Security Council condemnation of the missile tests and said they were part of its legitimate right to self-defence. "It is sheer robbery to have unduly taken this issue to the UN Security Council and made it public," North Korean delegation spokesman Chung Sung-Il said. "Unless the United States lifts its sanctions on us, we will never, ever attend the six-party talks or other types of talks involving the six nations," he said. North Korea said it was also considering withdrawing from the ASEAN Regional Forum, one of the few diplomatic gatherings it attends. Asian nations tried to salvage something from the negotiations, saying that the 10-way talks were a one-off and that the six-party discussions should continue. China, which was angered when close ally Pyongyang's ignored its appeals to halt the missile tests, called for all sides to "increase contact" to breathe life back into the process. Chinese Foreign Minister Li Xiaoxing met his North Korean counterpart Paek Nam-Sun on Friday and later told reporters that the North was "willing to go back to the six-party talks but had conditions." "We met for over an hour. We had discussions on a wide range of topics. The content was rich," he said, adding that Paek had agreed on a need to continue the talks. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said: "China told us he (Li) tried to bring Paek to the meeting of 10 nations to the last minute." South Korea, which cut food aid to the North after the missile tests, urged Pyongyang to "come out of this self-imposed isolation," foreign ministry official Cho Tai-Yong said. However Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer welcomed the wider 10-way talks, saying they were an "opportunity ... to broaden the focus region-wide." North Korea walked out of the talks in November after Washington accused a Macau-based bank of helping Pyongyang launder earnings from fake US currency, and told US financial institutions to stop dealing with the bank. The US says the clampdown on the bank is a criminal matter and should not be linked to the nuclear issue. Top US nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill said the counterfeiting was "dirty illicit activity." bur-dk/mtp

ASEAN-NKOREA-NUCLEAR-POLITICS - 07/28/2006 19:52 - AFP
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Service: World News (ASI)