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France Calls for International Pressure on North Korea - 2003-01-11


France's foreign minister has called on the international community to pressure North Korea to adhere to a global nuclear arms agreement. Dominique de Villepin made the comments during a visit to Seoul. He says Pyongyang's announcement it is pulling out of a treaty could increase instability.

Dominique de Villepin says the international community, including the United Nations Security Council, should play a role in persuading Pyongyang to reverse its withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

North Korea said Friday it was withdrawing from the treaty immediately. The decision has been met with international condemnation and has sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity between the United States, its allies and North Korea's neighbors to deal with the issue.

On Saturday, during a visit to South Korea, Mr. de Villepin said collective security demands collective action. Mr. de Villepin said a consultation process will take place over the next few days involving various countries to try to work out the best way to proceed, in a spirit of cooperation and dialogue.

France holds the chairman's seat in the U.N. Security Council. Paris could play a key role in efforts to resolve the standoff between Pyongyang and Washington over North Korea's nuclear development programs.

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has called on France to play a leading role in resolving the crisis peacefully.

Mr. de Villepin Saturday demanded that North Korea reverse its decision on the nuclear treaty, respect its commitments and end all its nuclear programs. He said Pyongyang's move risks increasing instability on the Korean Peninsula and heightens the danger of nuclear proliferation.

Mr. de Villepin is on a two-day visit to Seoul, following visits to China and Russia, where he also discussed the North Korean situation.

Also Saturday, North Korean state media said a million people rallied in Pyongyang in support of the decision to abandon the nuclear treaty. And in a North Korean broadcast monitored in South Korea, a leading Pyongyang scientist said the communist country does not possess nuclear weapons.

Thae Hyong-Chol, president of the Academy of Social Sciences is quoted as saying Pyongyang does not have any desire or need to make nuclear weapons.

The United States, however, says Pyongyang admitted in October having an illegal program to make nuclear weapons. That news has led to the current crisis over the North's nuclear ambitions.

On Saturday, Pyongyang also repeated its call for Washington to sign a non-aggression pact to ease tensions. In a radio commentary, it said the North Korean people should have the courage to overcome the present crisis and to transform defeat into victory and poverty into prosperity.

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