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Asia, Europe Urge North Korea To Return To Talks


Asian and European foreign ministers have urged North Korea to return immediately to talks on its nuclear arms program. The call comes amid growing concerns that Pyongyang is preparing for an atomic test.

8 May 2005 -- It's been nearly a year since the last six-country talks on the North Korean nuclear crisis.

Asian and European foreign ministers meeting in Japan yesterday say that's long enough.

Japan's Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura spoke at the close of the two-day Asia-Europe Meeting.

"There have been no six-way talks in the last 10 months, and we are all extremely concerned that in the meantime it is highly possible that North Korea has continued to develop nuclear weapons if not missiles," Machimura said.
"I hope they will not test, I hope every leader who has contact with North Korea is on the phone today with North Korean authorities to dissuade (them) from a testing." -- UN nuclear watchdog head Muhammad el-Baradei


Pyongyang pulled out of the six-nation talks in February and announced it has nuclear weapons.

The foreign ministers at yesterday's Asia-Europe Meeting said this is a cause for "deep concern."

And now there's a new worry -- whether North Korea is preparing to test a nuclear weapon for the first time.

On 6 May, news agencies quoted unnamed U.S. defense officials as saying they have satellite photographs that appear to show extensive preparations for an underground test.

The information is not confirmed, and officials say it might even be an elaborate North Korean ruse.

But the mere suggestion of an imminent nuclear test has prompted strong international reaction.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said any nuclear weapon test by Pyongyang would be a "provocative act."

And Muhammad el-Baradei, the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog, warned in New York it would have disastrous consequences.

"I hope they will not test, I hope every leader who has contact with North Korea is on the phone today with North Korean authorities to dissuade (them) from a testing," el-Baradei said.

Amid the alarm, there was one hopeful voice.

Back at yesterday's Asian European meeting, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon said diplomacy could still succeed.

"Though the situation seems to be troubling and serious at this time, many, many ministers have expressed views that room for negotiation still remains, room for negotiation [is] not completely shut down," Ban said.

(Compiled from agency reports)
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