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Tough response to North Korea's missile launch 'may backfire'.

Dubai: A leading think-tank has warned that a tough international response to North Korea's missile launch last Sunday could be counter-productive.

In its latest report, North Korea's Missile Launch: The Risks of Overreaction, the International Crisis Group, an influential Brussels-based non-profit institute that advises governments and NGOs on conflict resolution, said that a strong response would likely result in the demise of talks to end Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

The report also said such a move could risk a potentially devastating war, damaging to South Korea, Japan, and the already-battered world economy.

North Korea has threatened to take "strong steps" if the United Nations censures its rocket launch. These steps may include walking out off the six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.

In a statement released to the media, Gareth Evans, the outgoing CEO and president of the ICG, said that "[the missile launch] would only slightly increase security risks, while an overblown response would likely jeopardise the six-party talks to end North Korea's nuclear programme.

"What is needed is a calm, coordinated response from the key actors to raise pressure on Pyongyang to return to the talks rather than a divided reaction that only fulfils the North's desire to widen splits among its neighbours."

The think-tank argued that the rocket launch fits a pattern of North Korean attention-seeking when faced with stresses at home, political changes abroad or failure to get what they want through negotiations.

Speaking to Gulf News from Seoul, Daniel Pinkston, ICG's Deputy Programme Director for North East Asia, said that there was a need for "a cooling off period"."North Korea is undergoing some political changes right now. New people are being appointed in key posts. [US President Barack] Obama is also reviewing his policy on the country. So is South Korea. The international community should let things settle down."

Pinkston said that there might not be any strong response that is effective, adding that North Korea would only get an excuse to reconstitute its nuclear programme.

Asked what action the international community must take, he said: "We must ensure the full implementation of resolutions 1695 [which blocks shipment of missile parts to North Korea and demands that the country halt its missile programme] and 1718 [which imposes a series of economic and commercial sanctions on Pyongyang].

There is some evidence of North Korea's missile cooperation with some countries. If there indeed is such a violation, not just North Korea but also the other country should be subjected to punishment."

Positive review: UAE-Seoul ties

South Korea is considering a proposal from the UAE for regular high-level policy consultation talks, according to an official in Seoul. "We are positively reviewing the UAE proposal. The first session may be held in Abu Dhabi later this month," the South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted a foreign ministry official as saying yesterday.

The step comes amid reports in Seoul that the two countries' relations have been dented after the UAE ignored an offer from South Korea to export advanced jets to the UAE. In February, the UAE picked an Italian offer to deliver M-346s in a multi-billion-dollar deal launched by the Gulf nation to introduce next-generation military trainer jets.

Should the proposed talks go ahead, the UAE will be the second country in the Middle East after Egypt to have regular top-level policy consultation meetings with South Korea, according to the same official. "The meeting will focus on discussing political and diplomatic affairs."

- Ramadan Al Sherbini, Correspondent


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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Apr 12, 2009
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