ASEAN Supports Talks to Resolve N. Korean Nuclear Dispute

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Foreign ministers meet during a plenary session of the 44th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Nusa Dua, in Indonesia's resort island of Bali July 19, 2011. REUTERS PHOTO

BY BRIAN PADDEN – Foreign ministers meeting at a key regional security conference in Indonesia say they want to see an early resumption of the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear programs.


The foreign ministers from East and Southeast Asia released a statement Thursday urging the six countries involved in the nuclear talks on the Korean peninsula to create a more conducive atmosphere for dialogue.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan told reporters that the ministers are seeking a peaceful route that leads to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

“All of them are expressing that they can make some positive movement on the six-party talks,” said Surin. “They are all concerned about the development or the stalemate on the Korean peninsula and they would like to see all parties exercising full effort in order to move the process, particularly the six-party talks forward.”

The talks on North Korea’s nuclear program have been stalled since 2008, when Pyongyang abandoned the dialogue. In recent months North Korea has indicated that it wants the talks to resume, but South Korea, backed by the United States and Japan, says Pyongyang must first show it is sincere about abandoning its nuclear program. China and Russia are also participants in the negotiations.

The six-party nations have agreed that the two Koreas should establish a dialogue between themselves before the broader discussion resumes. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the South Korean and Chinese foreign ministers reaffirmed that principle during a private meeting in Bali Thursday.

However inter-Korean relations are at a low point following two attacks on South Korean military targets last year. The North recently said it will not talk to South Korea as long as the current government is in office.

Also at the ASEAN + 3 meeting, foreign ministers from ASEAN and China formally approved a set of guidelines to implement a nine-year-old Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea. China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin called the agreement a important milestone.

“We are looking to the future we have broad bright future with ASEAN countries in the future. We want to be good friend, good partner, good neighbor with ASEAN countries,” said Liu.

Leaders say the guidelines are an important step in the development of a binding code of conduct for handling disputes in South China Sea.

ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam as well as China and Taiwan all claim some or all of the strategic waterway that is believed to be rich in oil and gas. Liu says China will host the next round of negotiations on this issue before November of this year.