South Korea seeks verification on North Korean blast
* Washington ‘disappointed’ with Pyongyang stalling on nuke talks
SEOUL: South Korea on Tuesday cast doubt on Pyongyang’s claim that a huge explosion in North Korea last week was part of a dam project, saying it was seeking independent verification as a team of diplomats was planning to visit the blast site.
“We have to give our thought to other possibilities (than North Korea’s claim),” Unification Minister Chung Dong-Young said. “We will take a close look into it to verify this claim,” he told the National Assembly.
He noted that North Korea customarily puts out lavish propaganda whenever it launches any major construction project, but there was no report from Pyongyang on the power project. South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun’s national security advisor Kwon Jin-Ho also said independent verification was needed. Defence Minister Yoon Kwang-Ung said a visit by diplomats in Pyongyang and new satellite images would help reveal what occasioned the blast in the remote, rugged county of Kimhyungjik.
North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-Sun gave Pyongyang’s explanation to junior British foreign minister Bill Rammell, who was visiting Pyongyang on Monday amid global jitters about the reported explosion. Speaking in Beijing on Tuesday following his return, Rammell said Pyongyang officials agreed to allow Britain’s ambassador to Pyongyang David Slinn to head the team travelling to the site. “All the heads of missions in Pyongyang will be allowed to go on that trip,” he said.
Meanwhile in Beijing James Kelly, the top US envoy on North Korea, expressed disappointment with Pyongyang’s stalling tactics on talks aimed at solving the nuclear standoff. “We remain ready and anxious to return to the six-party talks and we are disappointed with the reasons the DPRK (North Korea) has given for stalling,” Kelly said in a statement issued by the US embassy. afp/reuters