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Asian Nations Urge North Korea On Kidnap Victims, Food Shortages

N. Korea's Kim Jong-il opposed to handshakes as alien, unhygienic
Moscow (RIA Novosti) - North Korea intends to disabuse its citizens of handshakes as a practice alien to Koreans, replacing it with a slight bow instead, a nationwide newspaper reported Monday. Rodong Sinmun quoted the country's leader as criticizing handshakes. "People should salute each other the Korean way. Shaking hands when meeting people is a European tradition. Nor are handshakes good hygiene-wise," Kim Jong-il is quoted as saying.

He said a slight bow of the head is a more civilized and hygienic form of greeting in Korea. "From time immemorial people have bowed to each other when meeting. According to etiquette, a younger person bowed first, giving way to an older one," Rodong Sinmun said. "This wonderful form of greeting in our nation has developed during the era of the Workers Party of Korea, in line with the dictates of the time, and will continue to thrive in the future," the North Korean party organ said.

by Simon Martin
Cebu (AFP) Jan 15, 2007
Asian nations urged North Korea Monday to scrap its nuclear weapons, tackle serious food shortages and account for foreigners kidnapped by its regime in recent decades. The communist state's missile and nuclear tests "threaten the peace and security of our region and the world," the 16 nations said in a statement at the end of their East Asia summit.

In an unusual move, leaders including North Korea's ally China linked their anti-nuclear message with appeals for Pyongyang to respond to humanitarian issues.

They urged the reclusive regime against a second nuclear test and to scrap its atomic arsenal.

"We also urged the DPRK (North Korea) to actively address the security and humanitarian concerns of the international community, including serious shortages of food, medical and other humanitarian services in North Korea, as well as the abduction issue," the statement said.

North Korea suffered years of famine starting in the mid-1990s and still faces severe food shortages. But it restricted the operations of aid agencies late last year.

The inclusion of the abductions issue was a diplomatic victory for Japan, which says 12 of its citizens kidnapped to train Pyongyang's spies in the 1970s and early 1980s are still unaccounted for.

Even China agreed to the reference to the abductees, apparently indicating that its patience is wearing thin after the North's nuclear test last October.

The summit host, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, acknowledged there had been debate on the issue.

"If there was any concern raised about the matter of the abduction issue, it was out of concern that as much as possible we should coax North Korea rather than use a language of animosity," she said.

Summit members were unanimous on the principle of urging the North to denuclearise, she said.

Concern is growing that North Korea may be planning a second nuclear test after the first on October 9 sparked alarm worldwide and led to UN sanctions.

Ten leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in a statement after their own summit on Saturday, had urged North Korea to "desist from conducting further nuclear tests", implement a denuclearisation deal it agreed in 2005 and rejoin the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The East Asia summit, which groups ASEAN with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, echoed the calls.

Japan said it was the first time China has publicly raised the abductions issue. A Japanese official described the agreement of both Seoul and Beijing to the wording as a "huge step".

South Korea says more than 480 of its citizens have been seized by the North since the Korean war five decades ago. The current Seoul government, which pursues a "sunshine" policy of engagement with its neighbour, is not publicly pressing hard for their return.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had highlighted his nation's concern at a meeting with ASEAN members, China and South Korea on Sunday.

North Korea "has not dealt at all with the abduction issue, which is a life-or-death problem for citizens," a Japanese official quoted him as saying.

"Japan's door is always open to North Korea on the abduction issue but North Korea didn't reply with sincerity in the last six-party talks.

"If there was any progress in the abduction issue, it would have led to recovery of trust in the Japan-North Korea relations, but North Korea has thrown away this opportunity," Abe was quoted as saying.

The six-party talks are primarily aimed at convincing North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Most Britons Want International Deal Banning All Nuclear Weapons
London (AFP) Jan 15, 2007
Some 64 percent of the British public believe that their government should back an international agreement banning all nuclear weapons, according to a new poll released Monday. The YouGov poll was published as the House of Commons Defence Select Committee began studying the government's case for modernizing its Trident nuclear missile deterrent ahead of a full parliamentary vote in March.

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