Sunday, January 30, 2005

DAVOS, Switzerland — South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young said yesterday that Seoul was eyeing a possible breakthrough with North Korea ahead of an APEC summit that his country is to host later this year.

“Some may hope that the North Korean leader [would] participate in this meeting,” he told a closing session of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“I hope before the [Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation] meeting takes place, there will be a substantial resolution on the North Korean nuclear problem through the six-party talks,” Mr. Chung said, referring to an international diplomatic framework.

“And I hope in this meeting we can celebrate the resolution of the nuclear issue and declare the end of the Cold War on the Korean Peninsula.”

The APEC summit will be held in Pusan, South Korea, in November.

Mr. Chung had told reporters earlier that “economic prosperity on the Korean Peninsula cannot be achieved without first realizing peace,” adding that “in order to reach peace, we must solve the nuclear issue first.

“We feel that at the November APEC summit meeting, we will be able to provide this sort of setting. It will be an important setting.”

The two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States are involved in the delicate search for a diplomatic solution to Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

Mr. Chung said North Korea had to be engaged and not shunned or threatened in order to produce results, saying the U.S. policy of containment against Cuba had not worked.

“To encourage North Korea to become a member of the international community, economic cooperation and engagement are more effective than military pressure or containment,” he said.

If the Stalinist state agreed to give up its weapons program, Seoul “will provide large-scale economic support for them,” he went on.

“If inter-Korean dialogue resumes, we are willing to discuss comprehensive agricultural cooperation, which includes grain, fertilizer and agricultural machinery to solve the food shortage problem in the north.”

Mr. Chung also pointed to an already established venture that lies just above the demilitarized zone (DMZ) in North Korea as a working example of what could be achieved.

The Kasan industrial complex, he said, “is an example of inter-Korean cooperation that is transforming conflict and confrontation into reconciliation and cooperation.”

At the press briefing earlier, the minister discouraged calls from Japan for economic sanctions against North Korea.

“If Japan were to impose sanctions on North Korea without the participation of China, it would not have much effect,” he said.

“Of course it would be able to create discomfort and pain initially, but it would not be effective.”

Shinzo Abe, acting secretary-general of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, had said earlier that Tokyo might announce sanctions against North Korea if it refused to come clean on abductions of Japanese during the Cold War.

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