Asian Ministers Urge Early Resumption of 6-Party Korean Talks

Posted July 21st, 2011 at 2:50 am (UTC-5)
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Foreign ministers from East and Southeast Asia called Thursday for an early resumption of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear programs.

The ministers issued the statement after a meeting in Bali, Indonesia, of the so-called ASEAN Plus 3. The annual meeting groups China, Japan and South Korea with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

In their statement, the ministers affirmed their support for efforts to achieve peaceful denuclearization on the Korean peninsula, and urged the six countries involved in the talks to create a conducive atmosphere for dialogue and consultation. North and South Korea are joined in the talks by China, Japan, the United States and Russia.

North Korea abandoned the talks in 2008 but now says it wants them to resume. However South Korea, backed by the United States and Japan, says Pyongyang must first show it is sincere about giving up its nuclear programs.

Parties to the talks have agreed that the two Koreas should establish a dialogue between themselves before the six-party process 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 has recently said it will not talk to South Korea as long as the current government is in office.

Diplomats said there was no discussion at the ASEAN Plus 3 meeting about territorial disputes in the South China Sea, an issue that dominated Wednesday's talks among the 10 ASEAN ministers.

However the foreign ministers from China and ASEAN were expected Thursday to approve a set of guidelines that could eventually lead to a binding code of conduct for handling disputes in the strategic waterway.

Officials said Wednesday the guidelines spell out how the countries should implement a Declaration of Conduct that they signed in 2002. China described the agreement as a “milestone” and a Vietnamese negotiator called it a “good start” toward the ultimate goal of negotiating a binding Code of Conduct that could be used to settle South China Sea disputes.

However some diplomats who have seen the single page set of guidelines said they do not address the most difficult issues causing tension in the potentially oil- and gas-rich sea.