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Americas

Clinton demands total denuclearisation from North Korea

©

Video by Regane RANUCCI

Text by REUTERS

Latest update : 2009-07-22

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded "complete and irreversible" denuclearisation from North Korea at a South East Asian security summit in Thailand, and expressed concern about a possible N. Korea/Burma nuclear alliance.

REUTERS - The United States is concerned about the possible transfer of nuclear technology from North Korea to military-ruled Myanmar, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.

Clinton's comments, during a visit to Bangkok, came ahead of a regional security meeting in the Thai resort of Phuket, where the most contentious topics will likely be Pyongyang's nuclear programme and how to promote democracy in Myanmar.

Clinton told a news conference that "complete and irreversible" denuclearisation was the only option for North Korea, saying after a meeting with officials from China, Russia, Japan and South Korea that her counterparts supported this stance.

"I think it's remarkable that the five of us are not only committed to the goal, but we can talk about what it is to achieve that goal," she said.

But in a television interview in Bangkok to be broadcast later, Clinton also expressed concern about the nature of links between Myanmar and North Korea.

Talk of Myanmar-North Korea military ties was fuelled after a North Korean ship, tracked by the United States in June and July on suspicion of carrying banned arms, appeared headed toward Myanmar before turning around.

"The threat that I have always worried about first and foremost is the proliferation of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction," sheb said.

"So obviously we are very concerned about North Korea and recent reports about perhaps their dealings with what we call Burma."

North Korea has a long history of arms proliferation and U.S. officials believe it helped Syria to build a nuclear reactor that was destroyed by Israeli bombers in 2007.

On Tuesday Clinton said she was worried about the possibility of military links between the two countries, both regarded as pariahs in the West.

She said such military cooperation would pose a direct threat to Myanmar's neighbours. Both North Korea and Myanmar are represented at the Phuket talks, although Pyongyang has only sent a low-level delegation.

Clinton will consult regional players later on Wednesday in Phuket about giving North Korea a choice between tighter sanctions if it pursues its nuclear programme and wider incentives if it abandons them, U.S. officials said.

She plans separate meetings with the foreign ministers of China, Japan, Russia and South Korea to plot strategy on how to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.

Those talks precede Asia's biggest annual security gathering, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which takes place on Thursday.

SANCTIONS FIRST


In the last two months North Korea has conducted its second nuclear test, test-fired seven ballistic missiles and boycotted "six-party" talks on ending its nuclear programmes in exchange for economic and diplomatic benefits.

U.S. officials said their main focus was to carry out U.N. Security Council resolution 1874, which bans all North Korean arms exports, authorises U.N. member states to inspect North Korean sea, air and land cargo and requires them to seize and destroy any goods transported in violation of the sanctions.

However, they said they had discussed a wider package of incentives for the North from the other five parties if Pyongyang were to take credible steps on ending its nuclear programme.

"We would like to paint a picture for North Korea of a very stark choice," said one senior official who spoke to reporters on condition that he not be identified.

"If they continue on the current path, it's a path that leads to greater tensions in northeast Asia, more isolation, more steps aimed at ... the regime," he added.

The official said the United States hoped to secure greater cooperation from its partners on sanctions if it showed that it was willing to be flexible about providing more incentives.

He declined to detail the incentives under consideration.

Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kazuo Kodama said Tokyo's "message is crystal clear".

"While we condemn these provocative actions we also emphasise that the door for dialogue is always open," Kodama said.

Seoul had wanted foreign ministers from the other five parties to meet jointly on the sidelines to discuss North Korea.

But Beijing, the closest North Korea has to a major ally and host of the now moribund six-party talks, was against the idea, said a South Korean official with knowledge of the issue.

There were no announced plans for any of the ministers from the other five parties to meet the North Koreans in Phuket.

Date created : 2009-07-22

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