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Unification minister calls for more int'l pressure on N.K. to give up nukes

2016/08/29 16:50

ASTANA, Aug. 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's pointman on unification on Monday called on the international community to exert more pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons as the North threatens to carry out another nuke test.

Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo delivered a keynote speech at a two-day forum titled "Building a Nuclear Weapon-Free World" which kicked off on Sunday in Kazakhstan.

"The international community should be united in further pressing North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions," Hong said.

The forum is being held to mark the 25th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, the main venue used by the Soviet Union to test its nuclear weapons. The United Nations also marks Aug. 29 as the International Day against Nuclear Tests.

The minister said North Korean defectors' accounts showed that a large number of North Koreans living at a town near the North's underground nuclear test site in its northeastern region are suffering from serious diseases such as cancer.

"North Korea should realize that its nuclear program poses a threat to the lives of its own people and contaminates its territory which should be left intact for future generations," he said.

The minister called on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, citing Kazakhstan's voluntary abandonment of nukes in the past as an example.

Kazakhstan abandoned 1,400 Soviet-era nuclear weapons in 1995 and later closed the nuclear test site where about 500 atomic tests had been conducted between 1949 and 1990 when the country was part of the Soviet Union.

"North Korea should learn a lesson from Kazakhstan. Without outside assistance, North Korea cannot feed its own people, but it is pouring sizable amounts of money into nuclear and missile programs," Hong said.

The minister said that if Pyongyang gives up its nuclear aspirations, it will be fully accepted as a member of the international community.

In March, the U.N. Security Council slapped its toughest sanctions on North Korea for its fourth nuclear test and long-range rocket launch early this year. Pyongyang also conducted nuke tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr

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