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Asia's Cooperation Crucial In Containing WMD Trade, US Official Says

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Singapore (AFP) Aug 16, 2005
Asia's cooperation is crucial in ensuring the success of a US-led effort to curb the trade in weapons of mass destruction (WMD), a senior US official said Monday.

"Continuing to build cooperative relationships in the Asia-Pacific region will be essential to our ability to stop the trade in WMD materials and their means of delivery," said Robert Joseph, the undersecretary for arms control and international security.

Joseph, speaking at the start of a five-day exercise under the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), said Japan and Singapore are the only Asian countries so far to have formally joined the PSI but he was optimistic India would soon follow.

He said China has not formally endorsed or asked to join the PSI but has becomed more cooperative in responding to international efforts to contain the trade in WMD.

China's reluctance, Joseph said, was possibly due to concerns it might affect talks on scrapping North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

"China has not sought to join PSI or to formally endorse PSI and that I believe is primarily because of the effect they believe that might have on the six-party talks, but again China is being cooperative on WMD trade," Joseph said.

Earlier, Singapore's Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean said globalisation has made it easier for WMD to fall into terrorists' hands and they would stop at nothing to get such weapons.

"The terrorists aim for disruption on a dramatic scale, so the destructive power of WMD has a clear attraction," he said in a speech to mark the opening of the exercise.

The drill, the first to be held in Southeast Asia, involves 10 surface ships, six patrol aircraft and 2,000 personnel from 13 PSI countries including the United States, Singapore, Australia, Japan, France and Britain.

The PSI allows for the seizure of missiles and other potential components of WMD while they are being transferred at sea or in the air.

"Should the terrorists ever succeed in using WMD in their attacks, it is not just the physical consequences that would be catastrophic," Teo said.

"The psychological impact, in terms of the fear that would permeate across the globe, would be equally profound."

Teo said globalisation has enabled the speedy and free flow of goods, people and ideas which are necessary for economic growth.

"But they have also created more conduits and opportunities for proliferators to do their nasty business... proliferation is truly a global enterprise."

Teo said the PSI, launched by US President George W. Bush in 2003, "provides the international community with a useful means of plugging the gaps in the existing counter-proliferation system."

"When domestic systems of export controls fail, and when the treaty regimes are circumvented, PSI creates an effective mechanism for states to work together to interdict WMD-related cargoes that are already in transit by sea, air or land," he said.

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Seoul (UPI) Aug 16, 2005
South Korean officials vowed to use this week's inter-Korean events to persuade North Korea to renounce its nuclear programs ahead of upcoming six-nation nuclear talks later this month.

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