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2009/06/04 10:29 KST

   *** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 2)

President Lee, ASEAN Leaders Condemn N. Korea's Nuclear Test

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea and 10 Southeast Asian countries denounced North Korea for its recent nuclear test and missile launches, calling them "clear violations" of U.N. resolutions. The leaders of the 11 countries also called for the resumption of the six-party talks aimed at dismantling the North's nuclear programs.

   The renewed condemnation came in a joint press statement issued at the end of a special summit between South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The summit was held on South Korea's southern island of Jeju.

   The North's moves "constitute clear violations of the six-party agreements and the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and decisions," the 11 governments said. "The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula through the resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue in a peaceful manner is essential in maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region," the statement said.

   Echoing recent statements by ASEAN and European ministers in Hanoi, the statement said, "The leaders reiterated the condemnation by the 9th ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting and the 17th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting of the recent underground nuclear test and missile launches undertaken by the DPRK." DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

   Pyongyang said May 25 that it successfully conducted a second underground nuclear test. The test defied a U.N. Security Council resolution that prohibits North Korea from nuclear and ballistic missile activities, adopted shortly after the North conducted its first nuclear detonation in October 2006.

   The South Korean president and ASEAN leaders called on North Korea to immediately return to the six-party talks, saying the "resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue in a peaceful manner is essential in maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region."

   The two-day special Korea-ASEAN summit began June 1 to mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of a dialogue partnership between the two sides. Economic ties between Korea and ASEAN have grown rapidly since the launch of their official dialogue partnership 20 years ago.

   ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. South Korea has been striving to catch up with China and Japan, which have already made huge investment and assistance in those dynamic economies with high growth potential and rich natural resources.

   North Korea was placed high on the agenda at the special summit, as the leaders noted peace and security on the Korean Peninsula is "essential" for the security of the region.

   Both South and North Korea have formal diplomatic relations with the 10 ASEAN countries. A South Korean official said it was very significant for the summit to obtain support and cooperation from the ASEAN countries.

   "To this end, we are committed to continue our efforts to reduce tension and promote dialogue on the Peninsula, including those to achieve an early resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue in a peaceful manner," the joint statement said.

   Lee Dong-kwan, spokesman for South Korea's presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, said the joint statements marked a success in Seoul's diplomatic efforts, noting ASEAN countries have long maintained close relations with the North.

   "As a result of this special summit, relations between South Korea and ASEAN countries that had remained until now as economic ties have developed into a full cooperative relationship that includes cooperation on foreign and security issues," Lee told reporters.