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Friday, Aug. 19, 2005

NPT fate tied to response to Iran, North Korea crises


Staff writer

KYOTO -- The atomic ambitions of North Korea and Iran offer direct challenges to the credibility of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, while the international community's response to these challenges will greatly influence global opinion as to whether the treaty itself is still viable.

These were some of the messages delivered Thursday by 55 delegates to a United Nations conference on disarmament issues.

The delegates to the convention, which began Wednesday and ends Friday, include ambassadors, academic experts on disarmament and officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Kyoto conference was the first gathering of international disarmament experts since the collapse of the NPT talks in New York in May.

While some delegates attempted to put a brave face on the talks, insisting they weren't a failure, most disagreed on the basis that they resulted in nothing concrete.

"The NPT conference became bogged down in procedural issues, and did not produce a document of substance," said Rudiger Ludeking, deputy commissioner for arms control and disarmament for Germany.

The challenge now, the delegates noted, is to figure out how to deal with both North Korea and Iran and their nuclear aims.

In the case of North Korea, Lu Kang, director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's department of arms control and disarmament, urged patience, caution, and the continuation of the six-way talks. These involve China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, the United States, and Russia.

"These talks are the best approach toward the issue of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and we have achieved much progress since beginning them in August 2003. Sincerity, patience and flexibility are needed," he said.

The six-nation talks are to resume at the end of this month, having been suspended in early August when no agreement was reached.

"It will take at least several more rounds of talks in order to reach a concrete action plan for implementing a basic agreement," said Lew Kwang Chul, minister counselor for South Korea at the U.N.

Other delegates, however, warned that while talks with North Korea were fine in principle, there was a danger of talking too much without concrete results.

"Each day that passes with no result gives North Korea time to develop nuclear weapons," said James Cotton, a professor at the Australian Defense Force Academy.

In the case of Iran, Ludeking stressed that the issue was about re-establishing international confidence in the proclaimed peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program, not denying the country access to nuclear fuel and technology for peaceful purposes.

On Aug. 8, Iran rejected a series of proposals that would reaffirm Iran's rights to peaceful use of nuclear power. It resumed nuclear conversation activities the same day.



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