S. Korea, France agree to collaborate in pressing N. Korea to discard nukes
SEOUL, Jan. 25 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and France agreed Wednesday to collaborate closely in pressing North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs, holding the two countries' first high-level talks on the North Korean nuclear issue.
The high-level consultative talks were held in Paris, France, with each side represented by South Korea's top nuclear envoy Kim Hong-kyun and Political Director of the French Foreign Ministry Nicolas de Riviere.
The bilateral talks dedicated to tackling North Korea's nuclear weapons program were devised during the summit of the South Korean and French presidents in June in the French capital.
"North Korea's fast advancing nuclear and ballistic missile programs constitute a grave threat to international peace and security and a serious challenge to the international non-proliferation regime," said a bilateral statement issued after the talks. "The two chief representatives condemn North Korea in the most strong terms for its continued provocative behavior and remarks that cause instability."
The two sides agreed that the international community should strengthen its pressure on North Korea and strive for thorough implementation of anti-North sanctions in order to leave the communist country with no other option than discarding its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, the statement said.
"To that end, South Korea and France agreed to continue bilateral cooperation on issues including efforts to encourage sanctions implementation by other countries."
France also committed to step up efforts for the adoption of additional standalone sanctions on North Korea within the European Union.
"Both sides also voiced deep concerns over North Korea's dire human rights situation. They called for the international community's proactive attention to the North Korean rights condition and improving the humanitarian situation."
Seoul and France will expand "the depth and breadth of their strategic cooperative relations" in tackling North Korean issues as well as other global challenges, the statement showed.
The two officials will met again in Seoul before the end of the year for the second round of the high-level consultative talks, it also said.
The meetings come amid lingering concerns that North Korea could conduct a missile or nuclear test to draw attention from Washington.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year's speech that the preparations for test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile is in the final stages, adding that it could be conducted anytime and anywhere.
Before leaving for France on Tuesday, Kim hailed the bilateral meeting as the first two-way high-level talk solely devoted to North Korean issues besides South Korea's similar talks with the U.S.
Kim said Seoul is also considering setting up similar dialogue with other major countries like Britain and Germany.