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No Plans For Second Nuke Test, Kim Tells China

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. Photo courtesy of AFP.

Blair debates North Korea with top Chinese official
London (AFP) Oct 24 - British Prime Minister Tony Blair discussed the situation in North Korea with a top Chinese official here Tuesday, a spokesman for Blair said. Blair met Jia Qinglin, a senior figure in the Communist party's politburo standing committee, in his Downing Street offices and talked about trading, bilateral issues and North Korea, the spokesman said.

He declined to give further details but the meeting came as it emerged that North Korea told China it had no plans for a second nuclear test, following a first blast on October 9 which drew condemnation around the world. Tough United Nations Security Council sanctions have since been imposed on North Korea. The meeting followed an earlier one between Jia and Britain's Lord Chancellor Charles Falconer, who is in charge of constitutional affairs.

by Verna Yu
Beijing (AFP) Oct 24, 2006
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il told China he has no plans for a second atom bomb test but increased international pressure could trigger more action, the Chinese foreign ministry said Tuesday. A ministry spokesman also said that, contrary to some reports, Kim did not apologise in a meeting with a Chinese presidential envoy in Pyongyang last week for his nation's first ever nuclear weapons test on October 9.

The test triggered global outrage and led to sweeping UN sanctions against his impoverished Stalinist regime, while also leaving the world nervous as to whether Kim might defy global pressure and stage a second test.

"He expressed that North Korea does not have a plan for a second nuclear test," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters, briefing on Kim's meeting on Thursday with Chinese envoy Tang Jiaxuan.

"But if others put further pressure or unfair pressure (on the country), then North Korea may possibly take further measures."

Liu did not outline what potential measures Kim may take, but his comments were the most specific account yet of the meeting between the reclusive North Korean leader and Tang.

It was the first encounter between Kim and any foreign official since the test and came as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was on a tour of Japan, South Korea and China pushing for strict enforcement of the UN sanctions.

South Korean newspaper the Chosun Ilbo, quoting diplomatic sources in Beijing, said on Friday that Kim had "conveyed his sorry feelings" to Tang for the blast, but Liu denied the report.

"I have not heard of Kim Jong-Il apologising," he said.

China is North Korea's closest ally and biggest trade partner, and is seen as crucial to global efforts to rein in the regime.

Liu also said Kim had reiterated his stance that Pyongyang would not return to talks on its nuclear ambitions until the United States lifted financial sanctions imposed last year for alleged money-laundering and counterfeiting.

"They expressed to us their willingness to return to the six-party talks but there are certain conditions," spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

"They are willing to return, but these questions, including financial sanctions, need to be solved."

Returning to the talks -- which have been stalled since North Korea walked out in November 2005 -- is a key plank of the UN Security Council resolution imposed on the nation for conducting its nuclear test.

The Chinese foreign ministry's account tallies with that given Monday by former Japanese vice foreign minister Ichiro Aisawa, who spoke to Wu Dawei, one of China's vice foreign ministers who accompanied Tang to Pyongyang.

Wu is China's head delegate and chair of the six-party talks that involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

"Vice Foreign Minister Wu said that at this moment, China is not optimistic about the resumption of the six-party talks or about North Korea abandoning nuclear" (weapons), Aisawa told a news conference in Beijing.

Aisawa quoted Wu as saying North Korea "showed some flexibility" and that Beijing was checking to see if Washington would reciprocate.

China has hosted the talks since 2003. The sides agreed a deal in September last year on ending the North's nuclear program in return for economic benefits and security guarantees, but it fell apart when North Korea walked out in protest at the financial sanctions.

Meanwhile, Liu said China had no intention of scaling back its huge aid program to North Korea because of the nuclear crisis.

"Supplying the North Korean people with aid to help them overcome some difficulties has all along been the policy of the Chinese government," Liu said.

"We believe this is beneficial to the stability of the peninsula... at present I have not heard anything about stopping this kind of aid to North Korea."

China is North Korea's largest aid donor, supplying the nation with grain, fertilizer and oil.

earlier related report
NKorea has no plans for second nuke test, but no apology for first: China
by Karl Malakunas
Beijing (AFP) Oct 24 - North Korea told China it had no plans for a second nuclear test but did not apologise for its first blast, Chinese officials said Tuesday, as the UN warned of a critical food shortage in the impoverished nation.

In his first meeting with a foreign official since Pyongyang stunned the world with its atomic bomb test, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il held talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao's envoy in Pyongyang on Thursday last week.

China's foreign ministry, giving the most expansive briefing yet of the meeting, said Tuesday that Kim had told envoy Tang Jiaxuan that North Korea was not planning a second blast.

However Kim also reportedly warned that further, but unspecified action, might follow if the international community continued to heap pressure on North Korea in reaction to the first blast.

"He (Kim) expressed that North Korea does not have a plan for a second nuclear test," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters.

"But if others put further pressure or unfair pressure (on the country), then North Korea may possibly take further measures."

The October 9 blast triggered global outrage and led to sweeping UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea.

Some press reports from South Korea said Kim had expressed some form of regret for his nation's actions, but Liu dismissed the speculation. "I have not heard of Kim Jong-Il apologising," he said.

Liu also said Kim had reiterated his stance that Pyongyang would not return to talks on its nuclear ambitions until the United States lifted financial sanctions imposed last year for alleged money-laundering and counterfeiting.

"They expressed to us their willingness to return to the six-party talks but there are certain conditions," spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

"They are willing to return, but these questions, including financial sanctions, need to be solved."

Returning to the talks -- which have been stalled since North Korea walked out in November last year -- is a key plank of the UN resolution imposed on the nation for conducting its nuclear test.

Japan and Russia, both parties to the six-nation talks, called separately on Tuesday for North Korea to rejoin the diplomatic forum.

"We firmly called on the North Korean side to maintain maximum restraint and return to the negotiating table," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Saint Petersburg.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso rejected North Korea's demand that Washington lift the financial sanctions in return for returning to the talks, which China hosts and also includes the United States and South Korea.

"The US financial sanctions are a totally different thing from the six-party talks," Aso told reporters.

"The US sanctions are based on its domestic laws which have nothing to do with the six-way talks."

All six sides agreed a deal in September last year on ending the North's nuclear program in return for Pyongang receiving economic benefits and security guarantees.

But the deal fell apart when North Korea walked out in protest at the financial sanctions.

Meanwhile, Vitit Muntarbhorn, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, warned that the critical food situation in the impoverished country would likely worsen because of the nuclear crisis.

"There is a critical food shortage also compounded by disastrous floods in July and August," Muntarbhorn told a news conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

He said the food crisis was further complicated by the North Korean missile tests in July and this month's nuclear blast, both of which he described as "a serious waste" of resources.

"The resources spent on arms would have been better spent satisfying the food security (of North Koreans)," said Muntarbhorn, a Thai law professor.

Chinese spokesman Liu said Tuesday that China, the North's closest ally and by far its biggest aid donor, had no intention of scaling back its humanitarian program to its neighbour.

"Supplying the North Korean people with aid to help them overcome some difficulties has all along been the policy of the Chinese government," Liu said.

"We believe this is beneficial to the stability of the peninsula... at present I have not heard anything about stopping this kind of aid to North Korea."

Also Tuesday, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon said he would play an active part in finding a peaceful settlement to the nuclear crisis when he takes over as the next UN secretary general in the new year.

earlier related report
With South Korea Policies Not Working On North Korea What Next
by Marc Carnegie Seoul (AFP) Oct 24 - South Korea's friendly "sunshine policy" was supposed to get North Korea to change its behaviour. America's hardline stance tried to do the same thing. Neither has worked -- so what now? Analysts say South Korea and the United States, despite being close allies, have refused to work together and coordinate their rewards and punishments in a way that could influence Pyongyang.

With South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun determined to keep helping the North while his US counterpart George W. Bush takes a tough line on the regime, there is little hope of a breakthrough in the nuclear crisis, they say.

"We need to have a compromise between Washington and Seoul before we can expect to make any real progress with the North," said Peter Beck from the International Crisis Group.

"The fundamental problem we have is the failure of our governments to have a meeting of minds," Beck said at a forum late Tuesday. He said what was missing is "coordination of carrots and sticks."

South Korea insists two joint ventures across the border will go on, even though they have provided the North with nearly one billion dollars since 1998 -- money that may have gone to building Pyongyang's atom bomb.

Critics see that as evidence Roh is too wedded to the sunshine policy to adjust it, pursuing "unconditional engagement" that sends Pyongyang a message that there are no consequences to its actions.

"North Korea has just conducted a nuclear test. If you aren't already prepared to take away the benefits you've been providing North Korea now, what other time will there be?" said Paik Jin-Hyun of Seoul National University.

He said the joint projects should be suspended and that the sunshine policy had failed.

"It won't work. It hasn't worked in the past," Paik said. "The government seems to elevate this policy to the level of a sacred cow."

But while Seoul may be too willing to engage, the United States may be too inflexible -- not ready to open up at all, even if doing so could convince South Korea to compromise and toughen its position.

Beck underlined South Korea's fears that harsh punishment could bring down the regime and end up saddling the South with the burden of absorbing millions of impoverished and culturally isolated Northerners.

There are also worries that tough action will make the crisis worse, he told the forum.

"This makes all South Koreans, in the eyes certainly of the Bush administration if not the rest of the world, appeasers of the North," he said.

"The more we push North Korea, the more we tempt them to engage in even more risky behaviour," Beck said. "We do have to recognise any Korean government faces some difficult decisions."

Park Young-Ho of the Korean Institute of National Reunification said any US willingness to hold direct talks with the North -- something Pyongyang has repeatedly requested -- could ease some of the South's concerns.

"It can soothe the South Korean people's criticisms," Park said. "That's the basic benefit for the United States."

North Korea dropped out of six-nation disarmament talks last year, saying it would not return until the United States rescinded financial sanctions that have choked off the North's access to international banks.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Seoul for talks on the crisis last week, and Beck said she could have offered to look at unblocking some accounts to entice the South to agree on toughening up.

"We'll make a whole-hearted effort to make a breakthrough but if this doesn't work, you'll have to back me 100 percent about getting tough," Beck said. That's "the conversation that I don't think Secretary Rice had."

With the Bush and Roh administrations both entrenched in their positions, there might not be any change until there are new governments in place.

South Korea elects a new president next year, while the successor to Bush -- whose party could lose control of Congress at mid-term polls next month -- will be chosen in 2008.

"North Korea's provocative behaviour is changing the equation here in South Korea," Beck said. "There is a recognition that policies will change when a new government comes."

In the meantime there may be little the United States can do.

"If South Korea really is committed to unconditional engagement, then it doesn't matter how reasonable or flexible Washington is. Seoul will never be on board," Beck said.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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