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UN Supports Denuclearized NKorea       08/12 06:04


   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres 
on Friday proclaimed unwavering U.N. commitment to a fully denuclearized North 
Korea, even as a divided Security Council allows more room for the isolated 
country to expand its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.

   Meeting South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in Seoul, Guterres said he 
affirms the U.N.'s "clear commitment to the full, verifiable and irreversible 
denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and DPRK," using the initials of North 
Korea's formal name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

   "There's a fundamental objective to bring peace, security and stability to 
the whole region," he told Yoon, while also praising South Korea's 
participation in international peacekeeping efforts and fighting climate change.

   Guterres, who arrived in South Korea on Thursday, later met with South 
Korean Foreign Minster Park Jin, who said the U.N.-led international community 
should be communicating a stern and unified message to North Korea that its 
nuclear ambitions won't be tolerated.

   Park called for the U.N.'s help in finding an effective solution to the 
North Korean nuclear issue, and Guterres expressed support for South Korean 
efforts to stabilize peace in the peninsula, the Foreign Ministry said.

   North Korea has test-fired more than 30 ballistic missiles this year, 
including its first flights of intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017, 
as leader Kim Jong Un pushes to advance his nuclear arsenal in the face of what 
North Korea has called "gangster-like" U.S.-led pressure and sanctions.

   The unusually fast pace in weapons demonstrations also underscore 
brinkmanship aimed at forcing Washington to accept the idea of North Korea as a 
nuclear power and negotiating badly needed sanctions relief and security 
concessions from a position of strength, experts say. The U.S. and South Korean 
governments have also said the North is gearing up to conduct its first nuclear 
test since September 2017, when it claimed to have detonated a nuclear warhead 
designed for its ICBMs.

   While the Biden administration has said it would push for additional 
sanctions if North Korea conducts another nuclear test, the prospects for 
meaningful punitive measures are unclear. China and Russia recently vetoed 
U.S.-sponsored resolutions at the U.N. Security Council that would have 
increased sanctions on the North over some of its ballistic missile testing 
this year, underscoring division between the council's permanent members that 
has deepened over Russia's war on Ukraine.

   Guterres' meetings with South Korean officials came a day after North Korea 
claimed a widely disputed victory over COVID-19 but also blamed rival South 
Korea for the outbreak, vowing "deadly" retaliation. The North insists its 
initial infections were caused by leaflets and other objects flown across the 
border on balloons launched by South Korea's anti-Pyongyang activists, a claim 
Seoul describes as unscientific and "ridiculous."

   North Korea has a history of dialing up pressure on the South when it 
doesn't get what it wants from the United States, and there are concerns that 
North Korea's threat portends a provocation, which might include nuclear or 
missile tests or even border skirmishes.

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