EU 'deeply worried' by North Korea satellite launch
by Daniel Mason
The European Union is "gravely concerned" about North Korea's nuclear weapons programme and "deeply worried" by its plans to launch a satellite to mark the centenary of former leader Kim Il Sung's birth.
Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, made the comments at a summit of EU and South Korean leaders in Seoul today. North Korea has so far resisted demands by United States president Barack Obama and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton to call off the launch – which Pyongyang insists is peaceful but which is seen by many as an opportunity to test intercontinental ballistic missile technology.
"The EU attaches great importance to maintaining stability in the region and reducing tensions on the peninsula," Van Rompuy said. "We remain gravely concerned over North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programmes and its human rights and humanitarian situation." He said the country's priority should be dealing with the malnutrition of its own population rather than developing missiles and nuclear weapons.
Van Rompuy added: "The EU has consistently supported the goal of complete and verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. We are therefore deeply worried by the announcement on March 16 of the plans for a satellite launch by North Korea. We urge North Korea to refrain from any destabilising act and that it fully abides by its obligations under the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and other agreements."
Earlier this month Ashton said that by going ahead with the launch, North Korea would "undermine ongoing diplomatic efforts", while at a nuclear security summit in Seoul this week Obama said that it would face further isolation and the loss of food aid if it did not heed international warnings.
But a spokesman for North Korea's foreign ministry described Obama's stance as "confrontational", telling the state news agency KCNA that the country would "never give up the right to launch a peaceful satellite, a legitimate right of a sovereign state and an essential step for economic development".
The war of words comes after relations between North Korea and the west had appeared to thaw in February when, in a deal with the US, Pyongyang agreed to suspend some of its long-term nuclear activities and allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors into the country in return for food aid.
At the summit today, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso described the human rights situation in North Korea as "appalling". He said: "I urge the North Korean authorities to respect the basic principles of fundamental rights. It is simply incredible what is going on in North Korea when it comes to the situation of lack of respect of human dignity. The EU remains committed to the promotion of human rights all over the world and the situation in North Korea deserves special attention."
America better duck and cover, the lucrative promise of feeding the hungry will not sway leaders with nuclear power. If they cared about starving people, the people in charge would have done something about it by now.
ali slat - Minneapolis