||S. Korea, U.S. Vow to Remain Tough Against DPRK at Security Talks
||Wednesday, July 21, 2010
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||Korea (Republic of)
||Jul 25, 2010
SEOUL, July 21 (Xinhua) -- Top diplomats and defense chiefs from South Korea and the United States met Wednesday for unprecedented security talks in what many say is Washington's show of strong support for its Asian ally rattled by alleged torpedo attack from its wartime enemy.
The talks resulted in the announcement that fresh measures will be taken against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)' s procurement of nuclear materials, a strong warning against the country that unilaterally quit multilateral nuclear talks over its denuclearization in April 2009.
The so-called "two plus two" security talks, involving U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and their South Korean counterparts, were the first of its kind held between Seoul and Washington.
The talks, originally designed to highlight their six-decade- old alliance forged in the wake of the 1950-53 Korean War, carried particularly more weight as it came shortly after South Korea wrapped up its international diplomatic venture to censure the DPRK for the sinking of the warship Cheonan, which killed 46 South Korean sailors.
The United Nations Security Council issued a presidential statement that condemned the attack in March but stopped short of directly blaming Pyongyang, taking note of its insistence on its innocence. The DPRK, which previously threatened to wage an "all- out war" if it is punished, said it is "satisfied" with the result.
Analysts saw the talks partly as a means for Seoul and Washington, close allies that jointly pushed for international denunciation of Pyongyang at the UN, to open the first chapter of the post-Cheonan era while sending a strong message to the DPRK against further aggression.
SANCTIONS AND DRILLS
And the message seemed clear enough.
"Today, I'm announcing a series of measures to increase our ability to prevent North Korea (DPRK)'s proliferation, to halt their illicit activities that helped fund their weapons programs and to discourage further provocative actions," Clinton said in a joint press conference that followed the talks.
"We will implement new country-specific sanctions aimed at North Korea's sale and procurement of arms and related material and the procurement of luxury goods and other illicit activities," she added.
UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, introduced in 2006 and 2008 after the DPRK conducted its first and second nuclear experiments, will also be more strictly imposed on Pyongyang, Clinton said.
While calling on the DPRK to abandon all its nuclear programs and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, the top U.S. diplomat said stalled six-party nuclear talks, aimed at ridding Pyongyang of its nuclear programs, "is not something we are looking at yet."
Meanwhile, Seoul and Washington are planning on a series of military drills, a show of combined military capabilities and a response to the deadly sinking of the Cheonan.
Gates, who arrived in Seoul on Monday, finalized details of joint exercises with his counterpart Kim Tae-young during a meeting a day ago. The first such drill involving the U.S. aircraft carrier USS George Washington will be staged on July 25 in waters off the east coast of the Korean peninsula, and more events are planned.
Adding more pressure to Pyongyang, the two countries also plan to join anti-proliferation drills on October 13 in waters off the South Korean port city of Busan to guard against proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction. Other countries in the Asia- Pacific region, including Japan, Australia and Singapore, will take part in the drills.
Observers have said Seoul seems to be seeking an "exit strategy " from a diplomatic standoff with Pyongyang over the warship sinking after the UN Security Council came out with its response to the sinking.
The DPRK and China have advocated the idea of reviving the moribund six-party nuclear talks, which some say might prove to be a possible exit from the Cheonan fiasco that ratcheted up tensions on the divided Korean peninsula.
Washington and Seoul, however, made it clear that they are not considering the denuclearization talks for now.
"Authorities in South Korea and the U.S. agree that we haven't reached a phase yet where we can consider the so-called Exit Strategy," South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan told reporters in the press conference.
Still, the United States left some room open for Pyongyang.
"These measures are not directed at the people of North Korea, who have suffered too long due to the misguided priorities of their government," Clinton said, adding the administration of President Barak Obama has made it clear that there is a "path open to the DPRK" to achieve security and respect.
"North Korea can cease its provocative behavior, halt its threats and belligerence towards its neighbors, take irreversible steps to fulfill its denuclearization commitments and comply with international law," she said.
For its part, Pyongyang said following the UN statement that it will continue its efforts for denuclearization on the Korean peninsula and a peace treaty with South Korea to replace a ceasefire by returning to the six-way talks.
FUTURE OF ALLIANCE
Analysts agreed that the unprecedented security talks showed Washington's foursquare support for its Asian ally.
Still, some voiced concern. "South Korea and the U.S. sternly dealt with the Cheonan incident, but Seoul's single-minded focus on resolving the issue, which is a short-term goal, might not necessarily be beneficial in the long run," said Paik Hak-soon, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute near Seoul. Seoul might have missed a chance to take initiatives in other long-term goals, such as Pyongyang's denuclearization, he said.
A hidden agenda for the two-plus-two talks might have been cooperation between Seoul and Washington on reshaping the regional order in Northeast Asia in the post-Cheonan era, some said.
As the United States seeks to maintain its leadership in the region in the face of China's rising global status, Washington is looking at the Cheonan incident as a catalyst for a new order in which it will remain a powerful voice, they said. (by Kim Junghyun)