Phuket: North Korea has no friends left to shield it from the international community’s demands that the country scrap its nuclear activities, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said on Thursday.
Clinton said many nations had told a low-level North Korean delegation at a regional security meeting on the Thai island of Phuket to give up its nuclear weapons.
Speaking at a news conference, Clinton said North Korea’s pursuit of its nuclear ambitions could provoke an arms race in North Asia, one of the world’s most dynamic regions and responsible for a sixth of the global economy.
“Our partners in the region understand that a nuclear North Korea has far-reaching consequences for the security future of northeast Asia ... This would serve no nation’s interests,” she said on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum.
“There is no place to go for North Korea, they have no friends left that will protect them from the international community’s efforts to move towards denuclearisation.”
Clinton said the North Korean delegation gave no sign the country was interested in ending its nuclear programme, which took centre stage at Thursday’s talks after Pyongyang’s recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
North Korea, bristling at being described by Clinton this week as behaving like an unruly child, responded in kind on Thursday, calling her vulgar and less than clever. The North’s KCNA news agency quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying her comments “suggests she is by no means intelligent”.
“Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping,” KCNA said.
Addressing foreign ministers and senior officials from Asia and Europe, Clinton said the United States would work through every avenue to persuade North Korea to eliminate its nuclear programme and normalise relations with the world.
“The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) can play an important role in achieving this outcome and for continuing to work vigorously to implement Resolution 1874,” she said, referring to a UN Security Council measure agreed after North Korea’s 25 May nuclear test.
She pointed to international cooperation in ensuring that a North Korean ship, tracked by the United States in June and July on suspicion of carrying banned arms, did not dock anywhere. It appeared headed toward Myanmar before turning around.
“The bottom line is this: If North Korea intends to engage in international commerce, its vessels must conform to the terms of 1874, or find no port,” Clinton said.
Clinton gave Pyongyang a choice between more sanctions if it refuses to end its nuclear activities and benefits if it does.
“Full normalisation of relations, a permanent peace regime, and significant energy and economic assistance are all possible in the context of full and verifiable denuclearisation,” she said.
Ri Heung-sik, director general of North Korea’s foreign ministry, said the incentives were “nonsense”.
No luxury boats for Kim
In one indication of how sanctions have begun to bite North Korea, The Financial Times reported on Thursday that Italy has blocked the sale of two luxury yachts to North Korea believed to be destined for leader Kim Jong-il.
The sale of luxury goods to North Korea is banned under previous UN resolutions.
China’s foreign minister Yang Jiechi said while UN Security Council resolutions against North Korea should be implemented, all sides should work to avoid an escalation of tensions.
A draft communique to be issued at the end of the meeting said participants wanted ARF to come up with concrete and effective responses to terrorism, transnational crime, nuclear proliferation and maritime security.
The statement, obtained by Reuters, also said the group wanted to “overcome security threats and challenges and prevent escalation of potential conflicts”. It made no direct mention of North Korea.
Many experts on North Korea have concluded from the reclusive state’s belligerence that Pyongyang wants to be recognised as a nuclear weapons state and will not end its atomic activities.
The poor health of North Korean leader Kim, believed to have suffered a stroke a year ago, and uncertainty about who might succeed him has further complicated efforts to persuade Pyongyang to curb its nuclear ambitions.