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Regional tension rises as North Korea crisis worsen

Updated On: Jul 21, 2006

The crisis in the Korean peninsula appeared to have deepened after the adoption of the UN resolution against North Korea for its missile launches on 4-5 July. 

North Korea has pulled its plug on the North-South Korea family reunion programme after Cabinet-level talks with the South ended in acrimony last week.

The reunions of relatives separated by the Korean War had been a key element of reconciliation efforts since the first and only summit between leaders of the North and South in 2000.

Seoul had warned that it would suspend human aid to the North until Pyongyang returns to the six-party nuclear talks. North’s Red Cross chief Jang Jae On retaliated by accusing Seoul for “abusing the humanitarian issue for meeting its sinister purpose to serve the outsiders” and added that “our side is, therefore of the view that it has become impossible to hold any discussion related to humanitarian issues, to say nothing of arranging any reunion between separated families and relatives between the two sides”.

This came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il soured his relation with China earlier this month by criticizing that “China is not helping us at critical moments and is a country that cannot be relied on”. The North Koreans refused to meet senior Chinese officials who visited the North last week as they believed China had sided with the U.S. in demanding that the North return to the six-way talks and eventually voted for the UNSC resolution.

South Korea who has been providing economic support to North Korea cautioned that provocative or ‘excessive’ responses to the North could raise regional tension. This is in response to attempts by the U.S. and Japan’s to impose additional sanctions to North Korea. “Oversensitive reactions (to the missile launch) will create unnecessary tension and confrontations on the Korean Peninsula and do not help resolve the problem,” said South Korea President Roh.

In the meantime, the U.S. will start deploying missile interceptors at a key air force base in Japan as part of the efforts with Tokyo to deal with the threat of North Korea’s missile arsenal (which include hundreds of Rodong missiles that can hit all of Japan), according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

South Korea and the U.S. has also agreed that a five-way talks without North Korea is the next best alternative if the North continues to boycott the talks.

Calls are growing for the North to return to the six party talks especially from around the region. The North Korean crisis is expected to take centre stage at the 39th Asean Foreign Minister’s meeting followed by the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) next week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  There would be a high chance that the forum would adopt a statement similar to the UNSC resolution.

“The UN Security Council’s unanimous decision on the DPRK’s missile test is a strong signal of the seriousness with which the international community views a situation which has the potential to destabilize East Asia,” said the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It added that “we appeal to the DPRK not to repeat such provocative acts, reinstate its 1999 moratorium on missile testing and return to the six-party talks without preconditions.”

Sources:

Strong UN signal to Pyongyang: S’pore (Straits Times, 19 July 2006)

South Korea and US call for five-way talks (Straits Times, 19 July 2006)

Pyongyang lashes out at Seoul and halts family reunions (Straits Times, 20 July 2006)

US to deploy missile interceptors in Japan (Straits Times, 20 July 2006)

N. Korea’s missile tests backfire (Straits Times, 20 July 2006)

North Korea scraps family reunion (Taipei Times, 20 July 2006)

Reclusive North Korea halts projects with South (Washington Post, 19 July 2006)

Warning North Korea (The Japan Times, 20 July 2006)

US to deploy missile interceptors at Japan base (Washington Post, 19 July 2006)

North Korea to halt relatives’ reunion (Seattle Post, 19 July 2006)

Roh against U.S. – Japanese Sanctions on N.Korea (Chosun Ilbo, 19 July 2006)

Asean forum to condemn N.Korea missile tests (Chosun Ilbo, 20 July 2006)

North Korea’s nuclear plans to take centre stage at meet (New Straits Times, 20 July 2006)