Ex-envoy casts doubt on N. Korea nuke disarmament

28th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

A former diplomat in Pyongyang cast doubt Wednesday on North Korea's willingness to denuclearise, saying its officials believe Libya's regime would have survived had it kept its nuclear weapons.

Diplomatic efforts are under way to revive six-nation talks on the North's nuclear disarmament. South Korea and the United States have held preparatory discussions with the North since July.

But Peter Hughes, the outgoing British ambassador to Pyongyang, said senior officials there had told him that "if Colonel Kadhafi had not given up his nuclear weapons, then NATO would not have attacked his country".

The Libyan strongman was ousted by rebel forces supported by NATO air attacks, more than seven years after he announced his country would give up programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Hughes also told a forum in Seoul the North's regime "has made very clear that their over-riding policy is total denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

"You have to look behind that to find out what it means. It basically means in real terms that there would have to be total denuclearisation of the world before they will give up their nuclear weapons."

His comments were reported by Yonhap news agency and confirmed by the British embassy.

The North quit the six-party forum in April 2009 and staged its second nuclear test a month later.

It is pressing for an unconditional resumption of the talks. South Korea and the United States want some prior actions, such as the shutdown of a uranium enrichment programme which could be reconfigured to make bombs.

Many analysts are sceptical the North will ever hand over its existing atomic material.

© 2011 AFP

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