North seeks direct talks with US
Hakim Hayat

MINISTERS attending the 3rd East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting yesterday stressed the need to maintain peace, security and stability in the Korean Peninsula and encouraged peaceful dialogue including the resumption of the six-party talks, the Chairman’s statement issued following the meeting stated. Ahead of the EAS Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, North Korean delegation official Choe Myong Nam told reporters the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister Pak Ui Chun has made another appeal for direct talks with the US during the Asean Regional Forum (ARF).

“The US must unconditionally accede to their goodwill gesture if it is truly interested in ending the vicious cycle of intensifying tension on the Korean Peninsula and safeguarding peace and stability,” Pak said according to the official.

The official said “a touch-and-go situation in which a war can break out anytime is fostered” on the Korean Peninsula, and that US hostility against North Korea was primarily responsible, Choe quoted Pak as saying.

Pak said the US must normalise relations with North Korea and lift sanctions against the country, saying the North Korean nuclear standoff won’t be resolved unless the US changes its tone, according to the official.

In an unexpected move last month, North Korea offered to talk with the US and rejoin the long-stalled six-party talks on nuclear disarmament after tensions escalated following its nuclear test in February. North Korea has also recently toned down its war-like rhetoric towards the US.

The Chairman’s statement also said the ministers reiterated the importance of fully complying with the obligations in all relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions, and commitments under the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the six-party talks. “The ministers reaffirmed their commitment to fully implement the relevant UNSC Resolutions and their full support for all efforts to bring about the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner”.

In this regard, the ministers welcomed the trust-building process on the Korean Peninsula and the peace and cooperation initiative proposed by the President of the Republic of Korea (South Korea).

Other top issues discussed during the EAS Foreign Ministers’ Meeting included the South China Sea dispute where in the Chairman’s statement, the ministers welcomed the convening of the 6th Asean-China Senior Officials Meeting on the implementation of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) and the 9th Meeting of the Joint Working Group on the implementation of the DOC to be hosted by China in September 2013 during which all parties will have official consultations on the Code of Conduct (COC). The ministers also noted that steps will be taken to establish an Eminent Persons and Experts Group (EPEG) and/or other mechanisms to provide support to such consultations.

In other developments of the EAS, the ministers acknowledged the development and growing importance of the EAS in the regional architecture. “Recognising the EAS as a Leaders-led forum for dialogue and cooperation on broad strategic, political and economic issues of common concerns with the aim of promoting peace, stability and economic prosperity in East Asia, the ministers emphasised the need to further consolidate and strengthen the EAS and to ensure the effective follow-up and implementation of Leaders’ discussions and decisions”.

The EAS has six priority areas namely – energy and environment; education; finance; disaster management; global health and pandemic diseases; and Asean connectivity. The EAS was envisaged to have Asean as the driving force working in partnership with the other participants including Australia, China, Japan, India, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia and the US. - Borneo Bulletin (3 July 2013)