- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2008

South Korea’s new conservative government made good on its campaign promise to get tough with North Korea yesterday, telling Pyongyang that time is running out on an overdue declaration of its nuclear programs.

Seoul also said it will vote for a U.N. resolution condemning human rights abuses in the North.

The country, however, continued to resist joining Washington’s Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which aims at preventing dangerous materials that can be used to make illicit weapons from reaching rogue states and terrorist groups.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, in Washington to prepare for President Lee Myung-bak’s visit next month, used stronger language than did Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when the two were asked about the delay of the North’s declaration.

“Time and patience is running out,” Mr. Yu told reporters at the State Department. “We hope North Korea will submit a declaration as soon as possible, so as not to lose good timing.”

Miss Rice agreed with her guest, although she refrained from setting a new deadline.

“It was supposed to be completed on Dec. 31. I’m not one to say that exact deadlines are that important — to get it right is more important. But I completely agree with the minister — we have been at this for quite a long time,” she said.

“We expect that the declaration and any associated documents will show the full range of the North Korean programs and activities,” Miss Rice said.

The second document is part of a tactic to break the impasse, which has delayed the implementation of an agreement to end the North’s nuclear programs reached in six-nation negotiations last year.

Pyongyang has resisted addressing two issues of concern to the Americans: a secret uranium-enrichment program that Washington contends the North developed in the 1990s and nuclear-related transfers to Syria.

In hope of some movement on the matter, the United States has suggested that those two issues be dealt with in a separate document, and that the main declaration include only the North’s plutonium program. The main facility of that program has been all but disabled.

The Bush administration wants to complete implementation of the six-party deal before it leaves office in January, which is why Mr. Yu said that time is running out. If the North complies, it faces the prospect of establishing diplomatic relations with the United States, as well as other political and economic benefits.

President Bush discussed the issue with Chinese President Hu Jintao, whose country chairs the six-party talks, in a phone call yesterday, the White House said.

Mr. Lee campaigned on a tougher stance toward the North before his election last month. Yesterday, he ended his predecessor’s policy of staying away from U.N. resolutions criticizing the North’s human rights record.

South Korea “will vote for [this year’s] resolution” at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, most likely next week, the Associated Press quoted a senior Foreign Ministry official as saying.

Mr. Yu said the new government will preserve Seoul’s policy on the PSI, whose targets include North Korea.

“South Korea supports the purpose of the PSI, but because of the unique circumstances of where we are located, we are limiting our participation as of now,” he said.

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