S Korea’s Lee says talks answer to nuclear crisis
SEOUL: South Korea's president has urged negotiations to tackle the peninsula's nuclear crisis but analysts say chances of international talks are slim because of deep divisions and a lack of pressure on the emboldened North.
Lee Myung-bak, who has vowed a tough stance against any further attack by the North, also called on Wednesday for fresh dialogue between the rival Koreas, saying a hardline military policy alone by the South would not ease tension.
Six-party talks aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear work, which the North walked out of two years ago, were the only forum to end the programme in return for aid and diplomatic recognition, Lee said at a Foreign Ministry policy briefing.
"I think removal of the North Korea nuclear programmes should be achieved through six-party talks next year," he said.
But analysts say they doubt that can be done, given that the North has no reason to make big concessions.
There may be meetings between countries involved in the six-way talks, but for North Korea "denuclearization"-the original purpose of talks involving the two Koreas, China, the United States, Russia and Japan-is out of the question, they say.
"There could be some sort of alternative process in 2011 but it is hard to say. There is a lot of pessimism about North Korea right now," said Scott Snyder, an expert on U.SKorea relations at the Asia Foundation.
A meeting between North and South Korea, backed by the United States, could be an option to kick off a diplomatic process although chances of success were low, he said.
Like the United States, South Korea has signaled that it is loath to restart the diplo- matic process unless its reclusive neighbor shows steps toward dismantling its nuclear programme.
The United States will not be keen for involvement in talks aimed at sending in nuclear inspectors as it wants the removal, not the monitoring, of North Korea's atomic work.
It also wants China, the North's main ally and economic backer, to do more to rein in Pyongyang, but China has called for a restart of the sixparty talks without preconditions.
Uranium enrichment work revealed last month could give North Korea, which conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, a second route to an atomic bomb, in addition to its plutonium programme.
Washington is expected to voice such concerns when Chinese President Hu Jintao visits the United States on January 19. -Ap
KUWAIT CITY: Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah (C) and Kuwaiti Commerce and Industry Minister Ahmad al-Haroun during a parliament session at the Kuwait's National Assembly. -Ap