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World concern over N. Korea nuke move

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is under increasing international pressure
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is under increasing international pressure

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North Korea promised to give up its nuclear weapons program and allow inspections to verify that it did not have the material such weapons would require.

SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- North Korea's decision to pull out of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) has been met with grave concern throughout the world, especially in Asia.

China, Pyongyang's closest ally, stopped short of demanding North Korea reverse its move, instead reiterating its pledge to promote a peaceful, diplomatic end to the crisis.

"We feel concerned," a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said on Friday. "The treaty is of important significance to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and enhancing international peace and security."

"We hope to continue to maintain the universality of this treaty and will continue to work to promote a peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue," the statement said without giving further details.

Also concerned is South Korea and its East Asian neighbors Japan.

Calling again on the need for diplomacy, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung said, "The whole world is opposed to North Korea holding nuclear weapons."

"Therefore, we must resolve this issue through diplomatic efforts and dialogue between the two Koreas in order to prohibit war on the Korean peninsula," he said.

Regret

Kim's successor, President-elect Roh Moo-hyun, expressed regret at North Korea's withdrawal from the treaty, his spokesman Lee Nak-yon said Friday, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

"Roh had urged North Korea to rescind its decision to resume nuclear facility operations and asked it to at least avoid actions that will further aggravate the situation," Lee was quoted as saying in the Yonhap report.

Russia and Japan jointly expressed grave concern at the North Korean decision and called on Pyongyang to reverse its move.

"Russia and Japan express regret and deep concern about the recent development of the situation concerning North Korea's nuclear program and the announcement by North Korea that it intends to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement, as well as refuse to carry out its responsibilities according to its agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency," said Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in a joint statement issued after the two leaders met.

Russia and Japan, the statement says, "confirm the need for North Korea to renounce that decision."

Japan plans to send a message to North Korea expressing regret over its decision to withdraw from the NPT, a senior Foreign Ministry official said earlier in the day, according to Kyodo news agency.

U.N. action

France, current holder the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council, also condemned the North Korean move and added that the council would have to act.

"France condemns the decision of North Korea to withdraw from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is a decision of deep concern," Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said in a statement.

Koizumi, right, with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko during a four day official visit
Koizumi, right, with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko during a four day official visit

"Our goal is clear: We have to make sure that North Korea will comply with its non-proliferation commitments," he said.

"This is a critical condition, for the security and the stability in the Korean peninsula, in the region and in the world."

"The U.N. Security Council will have to address this new development," de Villepin said.

That call was backed by Britain which said Pyongyang had made the "wrong decision."

"North Korea has to give the Security Council three months' notice of its intention to withdraw and it obviously will be important for the Security Council to discuss this issue and that will be the next step forward," Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said.

"It's obviously a matter of concern and therefore the Security Council is the right venue in which to discuss this."

Meanwhile, Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said his country was sending a senior delegation to North Korea next week in an attempt to end the standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear program and convey Australia's concerns.

"Obviously all of these developments -- and I think today's, the withdrawal from the NPT is the most serious of them -- all of these developments are very serious developments, a matter of great concern throughout the Asia Pacific region and indeed beyond," Downer said.



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