North Korea touts nuclear prowess
* Pyongyang says ‘thousands of centrifuges’ operating to enrich uranium
* Germany urges China to use influence on North
* Japan sends top N Korea envoy to China
SEOUL: North Korea boasted on Tuesday of running ‘thousands’ of nuclear centrifuges, a week after launching a deadly artillery attack on South Korea, as China pressed for six-nation crisis talks.
State media in the North, which has already tested two atomic bombs made from plutonium, said ‘many thousands of centrifuges’ are operating to enrich uranium at a new plant which it claims is for peaceful energy purposes. The country first disclosed the new plant to US experts less than two weeks before its artillery assault, which killed two civilians and two marines on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong island near the disputed Yellow Sea border. Experts and senior US officials fear the plant could easily be configured to make weapons-grade uranium.
China on Sunday suggested emergency consultations between envoys to the stalled six-nation talks on the North’s nuclear disarmament. Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Tuesday it was imperative ‘to bring the issue back to the track of dialogue and consultation’ as soon as possible. “We believe parties concerned will take our proposal seriously and react positively,” Hong added. The White House had said such talks would amount to ‘PR activity’ unless Pyongyang changes its ‘aggressive behaviour’.
Germany’s foreign minister voiced his concern on Tuesday about tensions on the Korean peninsula in talks with his Chinese counterpart and urged Beijing to use its influence, his office said. Guido Westerwelle of Germany spoke with Yang Jiechi by telephone about the crisis. “Westerwelle underlined his concern about the tense situation on the Korean peninsula and welcomed Chinese steps supporting de-escalation and moderation,” the German foreign ministry said in a statement. “He said China should continue to use its influence to avoid an escalation of the situation.”
Japan envoy: Japan sent its top North Korea envoy to China on Tuesday, where he was to meet his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei, officials said. Akitaka Saiki, chief of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, arrived in Beijing for a two-day trip to hold talks on the tensions spiked on the divided Korean peninsula.
Japan has expressed reluctance over the talks proposed by China, saying it cannot be ‘positive towards consultations’ unless the North faces up to its responsibility for the attack and its nuclear activities. “We don’t deny the six-party dialogue itself,” Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara told reporters. “But if we gather, some kind of progress should be made based on the past agreements of the six-party talks. That’s our stance.” afp