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South Africa Urges North Korea to Resume Nuclear Talks

A senior North Korean official said in Pretoria six-party talks on his country's nuclear disarmament would only resume when the United States lifts sanctions against his country.  South Africa has asked North Korea to stop testing missiles and resume the talks.  

Vice Foreign Minister Kim Hyong Jun also said in Pretoria that North Korea had test-fired missiles last week in self-defense because of planned joint U.S.-South Korean-Japanese military exercises on the Korean peninsula.

Kim was speaking to reporters following a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad.  Last week, following a meeting with a senior Japanese diplomat, also in Pretoria, Pahad said South Africa would use its influence to try and persuade North Korea to end missile tests and resume disarmament talks.

South Africa is the only country to have unilaterally abandoned its nuclear weapons program and destroyed all its nuclear weapons.  The country is a strong proponent of universal nuclear disarmament and following North Korea's recent missile tests, was urged by both Japan and China to use its influence to persuade North Korea to rethink its current positions.

Tom Wheeler, the chief operations officer at the South African Institute for International Affairs told national radio South Africa's own record makes it a natural choice for such interventions.

"So we come from a position of moral high ground on this issue and we can say to the North Koreans, look at what we did and look at what advantage we got from it.  We have this moral high ground position in the world, when we speak, people listen to what we say because we have been through this and we have done it well," Wheeler said.

South Africa's secret program was launched in 1974 and by 1989 when former President F.W. de Klerk ended the program, South Africa had six nuclear warheads, and a seventh in production. 

In 1991 South Africa signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and entered into a comprehensive safeguard agreement with the IAEA the same year.   A two-year IAEA review and verification process followed.

In 1993, under pressure from the African National Congress during multi-party democracy talks, President de Klerk publicly revealed, to parliament, the broad details of the weapons program. 

But Wheeler cautions that South Africa does not have an easy task.

"One wonders if anybody is influential enough to influence the North Koreans.  But you know if you come in friendship and you say we really do not think this is a wise way to go, perhaps you can have some influence that way," he said.

South Africa advocates access for developing countries to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.  

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