Seoul: Time for nuclear talks without N. Korea

January 22, 2016
South Korean President Park Geun-hye. (AP Photo/Jung Yeon-je)

South Korean President Park Geun-hye. (AP Photo/Jung Yeon-je)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s president questioned the role of long-dormant North Korean nuclear disarmament talks, saying Friday that regional powers should meet without the North in the wake its recent nuclear test.

The so-called six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear program in return for aid have been stalled since they were last held in December 2008. Pyongyang has since conducted three nuclear tests, including one on Jan. 6, sparking worries the country has made progress in its bomb program.

The six countries are the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan.

In a meeting with top officials, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said it was time to look for “diverse, creative” ways to try to resolve the nuclear standoff, such as a five-nation meeting without North Korea. She did not offer specifics.

“In the past, the six-party talks were useful as a tool to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through dialogue. But the question about their effectiveness cannot help being raised if the current situation — no talks — continues,” Park said, according to her office.

It was not known if Park’s push for a five-nation meeting would happen soon. North Korea would likely respond angrily to any such meeting, and it is unlikely China, the North’s last major ally and biggest aid provider, and Russia, also a traditional ally, would quickly embrace Park’s proposal.

Park also urged China to take unspecified “effective” measures to make North Korea follow in the footsteps of Iran, which last year agreed to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.