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2009/07/02 10:39 KST

*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)

S. Korea, Japan Call for Strict Implementation of Sanctions on N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The North Korean nuclear issue topped the agenda at the latest summit meeting between South Korea and Japan held in Tokyo June 28. The summit followed Pyongyang's second nuclear test in late May and continued threats to make more nuclear weapons.

   At the summit, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso called for the strict implementation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea, saying Pyongyang must realize that its possession of nuclear weapons will never be tolerated. The joint call came in a summit held during Lee's one-day trip to Tokyo.

   "The U.N. resolution must be implemented this time," the South Korean president said at a joint press conference with Aso after their talks. Lee was referring to a recent U.N. Security Council resolution that strongly condemned North Korea for its second atomic test conducted on May 25 and placed steeper sanctions on the communist state.

   "The final aim of the sanctions through the U.N. Security Council will not be to punish the North, but to persuade North Korea to give up nuclear weapons and become part of the international community," he said. Lee said that through strict sanctions the international community needed to demonstrate to the communist regime that there was nothing to gain by saber-rattling.

   Aso said the June 28 talks on the North Korean nuclear issue were "very meaningful and productive." "North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and missile technology is a serious threat to peace and security and it can never be tolerated," the Japanese premier stated at the joint press conference.

   The Security Council had adopted a similar sanctions resolution following North Korea's first-ever nuclear test in 2006, but it was not enforced in full amid efforts to restart dialogue with Pyongyang.

   The latest U.N. resolution prohibits U.N. member states from heavy weapons trade with the North, while calling on the nations to inspect North Korean vessels suspected of carrying banned items. Pyongyang has warned any such inspection will be considered an act of war.

   Lee and Aso noted a successful implementation of U.N. sanctions will largely depend on China, a close ally of the North and its largest donor, which has often voiced opposition to any attempt to push Pyongyang over the edge. "At today's summit, we agreed on the need to deepen our cooperation with China while strengthening relations among South Korea, Japan and the United States," Aso said.

   The latest summit came amid North Korea's boycott of multilateral talks on ending its nuclear ambitions. North Korea declared in April that it was rejecting the six-party nuclear disarmament talks after the U.N. condemned its launch of a long-range rocket earlier that month. The launch was widely believed to be a disguised test of an inter-continental ballistic missile.

   The leaders said they have agreed to seek five-way consultations among the other participants of the six-nation talks, which also include the United States, China and Russia, "to seek ways to denuclearize North Korea." The five-nation talks would be in lieu of the existing six-way forum grouping the two Koreas, the U.S., Japan, Russia, and China.

   South Korea and Japan called on China to strictly enforce sanctions on Pyongyang and join proposed five-nation talks aimed at coordinating a response to its nuclear threat.

   "For the effectiveness of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, it is important for all U.N. members, including China, to implement them faithfully," Aso said. "We agreed to strengthen cooperation between Japan, South Korea and the United States, and agreed on the need to deepen cooperation with China," he added.

   North Korea declared in April that it was quitting the talks in reaction to a U.N. condemnation of its rocket launch earlier that month that is believed to have been a disguised missile test.

   "Strictly speaking, now is the time for U.N. member nations that unanimously adopted the Security Council resolution to join their efforts to fully implement it," Lee told the press conference. He said, however, that the true aim of the U.N. sanctions and the proposed five-way talks was to persuade North Korea to engage in peaceful dialogue.

   Lee proposed the meeting of South Korea, the United States, Japan, China and Russia during his summit with U.S. President Barack Obama in mid-June. All parties supported the five-way meeting, except China, which last week indicated its reservations. Asked about its willingness to accept the offer last week, a Beijing spokesman called for resolution of the nuclear crisis through the six-party talks.

   China, the North's only ally and its biggest trade partner and donor, holds the key to effective pressure on and ultimate denuclearization of the reclusive country. With its priority in Northeast Asia being to keep the status quo, Beijing has been cautious on taking coercive measures against Pyongyang.

   The joint call by the two leaders came amid reports that Pyongyang may be preparing to test launch a long-range ballistic missile despite the recent U.N. resolution.

   Lee and U.S. President Barack Obama have noted that past engagements with Pyongyang may have led it to expect "rewards" or concessions following its provocative actions. "North Koreans will come to understand that this is different, that they will not be able to repeat the past or their past tactics and strategies," the South Korean president said after talks with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on June 16.

   Still, Lee noted there is room for the North to avoid the stiff U.N. sanctions that include a ban on heavy weapons trade between the communist nation and U.N. member states and inspection of North Korean ships suspected of carrying banned items. The sanctions, President Lee said, "are aimed at making North Korea realize that giving up its nuclear weapons will provide it with far more advantages" on a more permanent basis.