2nd Apr 2020

Top EU diplomat says UN should 'act' on North Korea

EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana has urged UN action following North Korea's controversial nuclear tests earlier this week, saying it could unleash a global arms race.

"It is an act which we condemn and protest against most vigorously," Mr Solana told the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday (11 October), following Monday's nuclear test in North Korea near the border with China.

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He said that the nuclear test "is a threat to the region and constitutes a hostile act to security and stability to the whole world," adding it "could lead to further consequences in accelerating the arms race around the world."

The EU currently has five members - France, the UK, Denmark, Greece and Slovakia - in the UN security council which is seeking an agreement on what action should be taken against Pyongyang.

Mr Solana said reactions from the Asian region and from the UN veto powers had been "responsible", adding that "even China has made constructive comments on a resolution on North Korea and supports it."

"The security council has to act", Mr Solana stressed, explaining that the international community would get "confused" if there were no consequences in terms of sanctions - like there might be against Iran for its refusal to give up its nuclear enrichment.

MEPs seek room for talks

"It is no coincidence that the North Koreans test their weapons just after the South Korean foreign minister is elected secretary general of the United Nations," said German socialist MEP Martin Schulz.

"We have to try to read between the lines of this dictator's actions. We have to see where there is scope for talks," he stressed.

"We must be firm in our principles," Hungarian liberal MEP Istvan Szent-Ivany said however. "With such irresponsible acts, they put at risk international support and cooperation without which the political and social structure of their country will inevitably collapse."

But the international human rights group, Human Rights Watch, has urged the international community not to suspend emergency food aid to North Korea as part of sanctions against the country.

"It must distinguish between the North Korean government and ordinary citizens," said Sophie Richardson from the group. "Further restraints on food aid will only make ordinary North Koreans suffer more."

She explained that up to one third of North Korea's population has been dependent on foreign food aid since the mid-1990s.

EU foreign affairs commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner echoeing the remarks said the test bombing must be met with "a smart response, to hit the government but not the people."

"I would like to maintain the humanitarian assistance," she said, explaining that the European Union has donated €345 million in aid since 1995.

Fresh threats from Pyongyang

Meanwhile, the world's new ninth nuclear state has threatened more nuclear tests and said that additional sanctions imposed on it would be considered an act of war.

In Pyongyang, the second in command, Kim Yong-nam, said whether or not North Korea conducted more tests depended on Washington.

"The issue of future nuclear tests is linked to US policy toward our country," Kyodo news agency quoted Mr Yong-nam as saying, according to press reports.

"If the United States continues to take a hostile attitude and apply pressure on us in various forms, we will have no choice but to take physical steps to deal with that," he added.

A draft resolution put forward by the US on Tuesday (10 October) proposed a range of sanctions against North Korea, including a halt to trading in material that could be used to manufacture weapons of mass destruction, an end to financial transactions which could be used to support nuclear proliferation, cargo inspections and a ban on the import of luxury goods.

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