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[ASEAN-Korea Summit]Jeju Summit Condemns North Korean Nuclear Test

[ASEAN-Korea Summit]Jeju Summit Condemns North Korean Nuclear Test

Posted June. 02, 2009 09:13,   


ASEAN, South Korea Issue Special Press Statement After Diplomatic Push

President Lee Myung-bak and the 10 heads of state visiting Jeju Island for the ASEAN-Korea Summit - or, to give it its official name, the ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit - will release a press statement today condemning North Korea’s second nuclear test and other military actions that have raised tensions in Northeast Asia.

“The leaders of South Korea and the 10 ASEAN nations will release a press statement on North Korea, separate from the ASEAN-Korea joint statement,” Lee Dong-kwan, presidential spokesman, said yesterday in a briefing at the International Convention Center in Jeju.

“The press statement will denounce the nuclear test, call for the United Nations Security Council to take quick and effective measures against it, and demand North Korea give up its nuclear program and return to the six-party negotiations immediately,” he added.

‘New Asia Diplomacy’ Bears Fruit

The release of the North Korea statement shows Lee’s “New Asia diplomacy” approach is bearing fruit, as Southeast Asian nations previously friendly toward the communist regime have turned to support South Korea’s firm position against the nuclear test, according to observers in and out of the Blue House.

A statement condemning North Korean nuclear weapons had not been on the summit’s original agenda. It was Lee’s decision that he needed the backing of those ASEAN nations with relatively close ties to North Korea to encourage a change in its stance. Hoping the regime would heed the collective, critical voice of ASEAN, Lee met with each of his counterparts individually to garner support for a statement.

Negotiations were first focused on adding North Korea-related comments to the joint statement, but later changed course to adopt-ing a separate press statement instead, according to a Blue House official. “Our diplomatic efforts were effective in persuading the ASEAN nations to agree to a separate statement,” the person said.

ASEAN on the Move

“The president is trying to work together with ASEAN to solve the North Korean nuclear problem, while the ASEAN nations themselves are also changing,” the Blue House official said. All 10 ASEAN member states have diplomatic relations with North Korea and some are historically close to the regime. Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos are sometimes called North Korea’s allies. Indonesia, a nonaligned state, was vocal at yesterday’s summit in its firm criticism of the nuclear test and demands for action from the UN Security Council.

It is “significant” that Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told Lee that North Korea will be discussed at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the official said. Last July, the ARF had declined to add comments regarding the killing of a South Korean tourist in North Korea to its presidential statement, an omission that led some to call for Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan to take responsibility.

Lee Curries ASEAN’s Favor

Some observers say Lee’s characteristic affability is helping ASEAN warm up to Korea. “President Lee has forged close ties with the ASEAN leaders, and they have confidence in him as a man,” a Blue House diplomacy and security official said.

Lee spontaneously invited Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife to lunch with him yesterday. The couples also took a walk together. At the summit meeting with Yudhoyono, Lee pledged to push for the re-employment of every Indonesian worker who stays in Korea - an issue of keen interest in the South-east Asian country.

In response to the Thai prime minister’s request that South Korea import tropical fruit, Lee said he would “positively review” the possibility once quarantine issues are resolved.

By Park Min-hyuk mhpark@donga.com