Govt Warns N. Korea Over Rising Tensions

JAKARTA

The government warned this week that tensions on the Korean peninsula could spin out of control without a return to dialogue, as North Korea’s foreign minister visited the southeast Asian country.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa held talks with his North Korean counterpart Pak Ui Chun and said there was an “inherent risk” attached to the current freeze in six-party talks over the North’s nuclear programme.

He said he had repeated Indonesia’s condemnation of the sinking of a South Korean warship in March with the loss of 46 lives, without blaming North Korea as the United States, South Korea and other countries have done.

“Our emphasis is on the future in terms of wanting to ensure that the conditions conducive to the return to six-party talks are created,” Natalegawa said after the meeting on Monday.

North Korea has offered to return to the stalled disarmament dialogue involving the two Koreas plus China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

The talks have been on ice since December 2008. In April last year the North announced it was quitting the forum before staging its second nuclear weapons test a month later.

The United States and South Korea have said that before negotiations can resume, Pyongyang must acknowledge its role in the sinking of the warship, sincerely commit to scrapping its atomic weapons and halt provocative actions.

Pak did not speak to reporters after the meeting in Jakarta.

“Sooner or later, all parties must return to the dialogue, to the negotiation process,” Natalegawa said.

“In our view, in the Indonesian view, sooner is better than later because otherwise there is an inherent risk of events developing out of control and we may end up in a situation where we don’t want to be.”

The United States and South Korea accuse the North of torpedoing the Cheonan near the disputed Yellow Sea border in March – a charge Pyongyang denies.

The North threatened a physical response to US-South Korean naval exercises launched last month in the Sea of Japan.

A South Korean newspaper reported Monday that the North attacked the warship after the South balked at its request for economic aid in return for a proposed summit.

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